In a world where we constantly hear about “white privilege” and “systemic racism,” Jeff Bird, a white male, is making a difference in the lives of urban youth. He and Russ Gregg founded Hope Academy, a Christian school for inner city youth, in 2000.
Bird joined Kendall and Sheila Qualls on the Fully Charged podcast this week to talk about his most recent endeavor, Hope Farm School. Bird leads the farm school with Gregg.
Hope Academy is a private Christ-centered classical academy founded as an “opportunity equalizer for urban youth.” They serve over 500 K-12 students with a vision of growing to 700.
Bird said the farm school is his latest labor of love. He said he grew up on a farm and a farm environment is a great place to teach kids some of the basics of life. The school is an opportunity to teach the boys that God has a plan for their lives, he said.
Hope Farm School is a residential Christian all boys school that educates and develops urban youth who live in Minneapolis. The boys live and farm together five days a week. They grow their own food. They return home on weekends.
“The boys do tremendous after they are there for one or two years. They go all the way through high school,” Bird said.
Bird said they aren’t trying to turn the boys into farmers.
“It’s very unlikely that any of them will head that way,” he said. “We call farm skills hard skills where you learn math or science. What we’re really working on are the soft skills and to give them a different perspective on life.”
Bird said some soft skills include timeliness, listening to instructions, and doing and turning in work on time. He said they also teach the boys about the importance of marriage and faithfulness in marriage. Many of the boys do not expect to get married, but they do expect to have children.
“Marriage is not even in their vocabulary. No one in their family structure is married. Almost no one,” Bird said.
Bird said it’s important to reach the boys early. “Sometimes a mom won’t want to let her son go [when he’s young]. She’ll call me back a year or two later and say, ‘He’s not coming home at night,’ but by that time, it’s too late.”
The farm school is hosting an open house Oct. 15 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.