United4Hope (U4H) brings together Nashville area churches and public schools to see Nashville’s students thrive and our communities transformed by serving in four primary roles: student support, staff encouragement, family engagement, and in-kind contributions. The primary focus is on supporting Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Reading and Math Literacy initiatives and social-emotional support programs.
U4H was created as the education ministry of Operation Andrew Group, a coalition of pastors from diverse denominations. It was formed out of a desire to serve Nashville in a way that if the program ceased to exist, the city would notice. U4H recognizes that with nearly 900 churches in Nashville, congregants are the largest pool of untapped volunteers in the city. U4H serves as a channel to connect churches to MNPS to serve the school’s needs while following a framework that respects separation of church and state. Since its inception, U4H has worked closely with Dr. Tony Majors, MNPS Chief Human Resources Officer, to understand how schools can utilize additional supports. Because of this collaboration, MNPS has now asked us to find church community partners for all 167 district schools.
U4H recognizes that with nearly 900 churches in Nashville, congregants are the largest pool of untapped volunteers in the city.
The U4H team at Harvard University’s L.I.F.E. Convening. Pictured: Pastor Aaron Bryant, Harvard Professor Dr. Irvin Scott, Church Coordinator Ruth Hillis, Partnership Manager Janelle Wommer, and Director Stan Weber.
Not Pictured: Principal Dr. Watechia Lawless, Executive Officer Dr. Tony Majors, and Board Member Howard Gentry.
While there are other programs around the country that connect churches to public schools, U4H is the only initiative that creates a city-wide network of inter-denominational, multiracial churches engaging with public schools. This network encourages churches to connect with one another to share stories and ideas while also challenging each other to continually improve their partnership. In fact, the uniqueness of the program has garnered attention from Harvard University’s Leadership Institute for Faith and Education (L.I.F.E.), and U4H is now part of their design cohort.
To ensure partnerships are effective, U4H has created a partnership roadmap of best practices for our volunteer leaders that have proven to lead to successful partnerships. This roadmap aligns with the Community Schools model being implemented by MNPS to connect community partners to area schools. Additionally, professional development opportunities are provided for volunteer leaders through monthly newsletters and continuing education workshops, such as cultural humility training, volunteer recruitment and retention seminars, and poverty simulations. U4H staff walk beside each partnership and offer individualized coaching to ensure partnership success.