The Story of HOPE

The story of HOPE is really a story of God working through people. It’s the story of unlocking potential in God’s children and inspiring a sense of purpose that brings lasting change to lives, families and communities. And it all started with a walk through a Milwaukee neighborhood.

James Rahn is one of several founding visionaries and the current board chair for HOPE Christian Schools. In the fall of 1999, James was walking through an urban neighborhood where the local faith-based school had been closed down because, as he had been told, there were “not enough children here to have a school.” As he walked the streets, James recalls having to dodge strollers and children running about. And as he approached the school building that had been closed by the local church, he saw lights on and people milling around inside.

He saw students, teachers and what looked like a school day in session. He stopped inside to learn what was happening in this school he thought had been closed. He found out that a nearby charter school had run out of room for its rapidly expanding school because there were “so many children to serve in this neighborhood.” This charter school was renting the space that had been vacated by the church.

This all took place right after the Wisconsin Supreme Court had passed a ruling allowing low-income children in Milwaukee to utilize a state voucher to pay for their tuition to attend any school of their choice, including faith-based schools. Immediately James’ mind began to race, and he began wondering how people of faith could do more to serve urban children by providing them with excellent educational opportunities.

Quickly and with a sense of urgency, James and a growing group of Christians began working on a new vision: To create a network of schools that offered rigorous academics, character formation, and faith formation accessible to the families qualifying for vouchers. Milwaukee would be the starting point for a model that could be replicated in other locations across the country.

This was the beginning of the journey for HOPE Christian Schools. While we have been blessed with incredible serving leaders with extraordinary talent, vision, and the hearts of tireless soldiers for this cause, the story of HOPE is really the story of God working through His people to maximize the potential in His children for Greater Purpose. It’s the story of unlocking potential in God’s children and inspiring a sense of purpose that brings lasting change to lives, families and communities. And, it’s the story of Christians simply doing what God has called us to do: love one another, serve one another, and do it all with excellence befitting Christ whose name we bear.

Today, HOPE Christian Schools is a network of private Christian college-preparatory schools serving nearly 2,500 scholars in Milwaukee and Racine, Wisconsin. The six HOPE schools in Milwaukee participate in the Milwaukee Parental School Choice Program, and our school in Racine is part of the Racine Parental Choice Program. Nearly 100 percent of our scholars qualify for free or reduced lunch and live in some of the most impoverished areas of these two urban centers. In spite of the statistical odds being stacked against them, our scholars are proving what is possible. For the fifth year in a row, 100 percent of our high school seniors were accepted into college. Our elementary scholars are demonstrating strong academic results as well, growing faster than their peers as demonstrated on the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP), a nationally normed growth assessment.

All of this began with the passion, energy and inspiration of HOPE’s founders who had hearts for service and a love for children who they saw not as statistics, but rather as God’s own children, created on purpose and for great purpose. And none of this could have happened, or indeed can continue, without God’s ongoing grace and blessing at every step along the journey. As we look back on 15 years of the growth and development of HOPE Christian Schools, it is clear that God put the talented people, the courageous leaders and groundbreaking public policies in place at key moments in time to bring HOPE to life, sustain it and grow it.

HOPE is an acronym that stands for “Holding Onto the Promises Everywhere.” The formation of this acronym was one step of many along the way as HOPE has evolved and developed more clarity in its communication. The culture of HOPE Christian Schools from the very beginning has been continuous improvement with an entrepreneurial mindset, always refining and finding better ways to accomplish our mission. HOPE’s mission has included the same three pillars since the beginning: 1) deliver excellent academics, 2) create the opportunity for strong character formation, and 3) share Christ with our scholars to support them in building an ongoing, deepening relationship with Him. The founders also envisioned that each of these three pillars should be delivered in a way that is sustainable for our people and those we serve, as well as scalable, so as to open up more opportunities to serve more children. This three-fold mission has been refined and is now simply stated by our team as “Christ. College. Character.® for all.”

We invite you to download a more detailed version of HOPE’s journey here. As you read, you will see God’s hand directing and talented individuals leading by faith, with the mission of Christ. College. Character. guiding their work.

View HOPE’s History At-a-Glance.

View our Statement of Faith.

We’re in the process of compiling HOPE’s rich history from the perspective of those who lived it. The story of HOPE includes many contributors, and we don’t want to miss anyone! If you have a story to add, please contact Fatima Wakefield.