First things first: The day at Faith With Prayer Christian Academy begins with morning prayer. Then, Bible study. Next, the standard subject areas follow.

Because according to educator Monica L. Cheney-Bergeron, students achieve better when God is in the picture.

“He gives us our gifts,” explained Cheney-Bergeron, owner of Faith With Prayer Christian Academy outside metro Atlanta in Rex, Georgia. “We can’t go too far without Him.”

As soon as students enter the classroom to wrap up the 2018-2019 academic year, worship music greets them like previous mornings—along with Cheney-Bergeron’s motherly smile.

It’s the common courtesies and unconventional learning approaches that have had her 21st-century students fist-pumping and high-fiving to receive new knowledge throughout the year.

Her 6-year-old academy is one of the only non-traditional private schools in the area that develops students in scholarship, spirituality and servant leadership.

The school was designed for students to apply Christian values and one day become thoughtful leaders and entrepreneurs.

“She’s kind and so are my classmates,” said Ian Price, 11, a rising sixth grader. “She wants us to do our best all the time. That’s what I’m going to do on my summer break, too.”

Now that summer is in session, Cheney-Bergeron’s students can find her at local libraries tutoring and prepping local youth for the next academic year — no matter if they’re public or private school attendees.

Cheney-Bergeron pushes her students daily; mastering tasks like descriptive writing, public speaking, project managing and engaging in friendly competitions are a must.

Already, Faith With Prayer has seen its predominantly African-American student body at the top of regional, state and nationwide math competitions.

Through academics and a unified, starched attire, students also challenge notions of black youth only acting as “menaces to society.” And she offers her educational expertise without parents breaking the bank, too.

The average cost to attend private schools in the state of Georgia is roughly $10,639 annually. A National Center for Education Statistics report placed the range from $5,330 to $25,180.

Faith With Prayer’s tuition rate almost cuts Georgia’s average cost in half. Twice.

“I don’t care if a child’s parent works at McDonald’s,” Cheney-Bergeron said. “If they want their kid to go to private school, now they can afford it.”

Cheney-Bergeron has held teaching positions in both public and private school settings for the past 17 years now.

Working in traditional and special education classrooms, most of her classes included children of color.

“The sad part: Many of my public school students didn’t have the difficulties they were being labeled as,” she said. “A lot of times they just needed a better understanding of the work they were doing. A personal formula. That’s all.

“Some shared with me that a few of their teachers didn’t care,” she added. “That puts students in a mode where they won’t fully apply themselves.”

She knew that all they needed was confidence.

Tired of seeing a cycle of young black kids — primarily males — coming into her classes uninspired, Cheney-Bergeron started thinking of a solution that would create generational change.

She said she spent about two years developing a customized curriculum founded on love, faith and prayer.

The seasoned educator truly believes in order for the impossible to happen it must start with faith.

“Whatever we desire and if we give it to God, it shall and will be done,” she said.
The academy grew from seven students at its inception to now 23, representing grades K-12.

Adhering to a rigorous curriculum from a Christian perspective, students of Faith With Prayer start a grade level and a half ahead of their public school counterparts. By the time they enter the sixth grade, they’re preparing for college-level coursework.

“We’re on the Abeka and Bob Jones Christian Curriculum,” Cheney-Bergeron said. “They’re intense, but help students apply the Word and coursework to their lives.”

In addition to its low cost and an advanced syllabus, the academy also offers the following private school perks for parents, according to Cheney-Bergeron:

  • Value-based setting: the Academy reserves the right to establish and teach religion in depth;
  • Intimate teaching environment: Faith With Prayer creates more one-on-one time between individual students and the teacher to grasp new lessons and concepts; and
  • Innovative learning opportunities: the schools provides enough flexibility for students to explore extracurricular activities like violin lessons and equestrian riding, which are
  • subject matters not traditionally offered at public schools.

“The friendships and (Cheney-Bergeron)’s support really push me to understand the work,” said Benjamin Nelson, a rising seventh grader. “She always shows us new ways — like games — to get the subjects we’re learning about much faster.”

In addition to ensuring students earn a top-notch educational experience, Cheney-Bergeron stresses the importance of school respect and safety at her academy.

From metro Atlanta to Henry County’s school district, the 2018-2019 academic year ended with a string of email messages alerting parents about “non-specific” email threats against the school systems.

“Henry County Schools is working in partnership with SROs and other law enforcement officials after two district employees received an anonymous email overnight with a non-specific threat against our school system,” a May 15 email release from the school district stated. “Law enforcement is working to get to the bottom of who is responsible for sending this message. At this point, law enforcement has given no indication that the threat is credible, but the matter remains under investigation.”

The release continued, “This latest development is strikingly similar to a situation that another metro Atlanta school district dealt with earlier this month in which a non-specific threat was made against their school district.”

Two weapons — a gun and a knife — were found at a Henry County middle and elementary school respectively. The incidents happened between April and May as well.

“It’s scary the things our kids see and experience in the public school system nowadays,” said Cheney-Bergeron. “That’s why I try my best to build community and provide a safe place for my students and parents to flourish. And we have to increase our faith daily.”

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Monica L. Cheney-Bergeron (left), founder of Faith With Prayer Christian Academy, with her future servant leaders and community change agents Ian Price and Amir Sejour. (Photo: Trarell Torrence/The Atlanta Voice)

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