Membership Assistance Spotlight: Academy for GOD

May 14, 2024
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By: Megan Ilertsen, ACSI Director of Donor Engagement

The Academy for GOD in Old Hickory, Tennessee, is changing students' lives, revitalizing their community, and having a significant global impact through their unique, holistic approach to Christian education. Established in 2013 as a ministry of The Global Outreach Developments (G.O.D.) International, the school is part of a three-pronged mission to promote education, global development, and community service.

According to Principal Alex Castro, everything at the Academy for GOD starts and ends with their mission statement: Holistically educating children to become responsible, kind, and ethical neighbors; competent persons, globally conscious and historically relevant. He said, “Our goal is for a student to walk out of here and really emulate what that mission statement is.”

The best way they’ve found to integrate their mission with their education plan is by focusing on interdisciplinary teaching. For example, the Academy offers a class called “De-Nom Nom-inators,” where students spend time in the school’s garden and, from there, learn a variety of practical knowledge and social skills; They learn about farming techniques and nutrition, they learn math fractions associated with produce, and they culminate with an opportunity to build hospitality skills at a banquet where they serve one another and engage in assertive communication and active listening. All under the umbrella of STEM and social emotional learning, it’s a truly unique educational model that also fits their “Farm to School” network requirements.

But the Academy for GOD’s education impact isn’t limited to the 250 students who attend school on the Old Hickory campus. The school offers a hybrid learning option, where additional students can complete courses from home but also come to campus once or twice a week for the important social element. They also offer flex courses for homeschool families around the country who need the tools to integrate a biblical worldview into their academic lessons.

This desire to help people access quality Christian education through their diverse delivery models is also seen in the high value they place on technology. The Academy for GOD offers students one-to-one iPad use to enhance their educational experience and help them learn how to use it as a research and communication tool.

They also provide opportunities to collaborate with students in classrooms around the world, including Uganda and the Philippines, through tech platforms. Thanks to their affiliation with G.O.D. International, the Academy’s students are connected to their peers in other countries and enhance their holistic education through cross-cultural friendships and service.

Appropriately called “Hopewell,” the Academy for GOD’s neighborhood within Old Hickory and the greater Nashville area, was historically a run-down, low-income area when the school moved in 11 years ago. But, thanks to the intentional pursuit of relationships within the community and earning their neighbors' trust as a safe school environment, the school’s leadership has been able to see the neighborhood transformed.

Principal Castro explained that now the area is “a sought-after neighborhood for a lot of new families” and recently received an “A” rating from a popular community rating website. When asked if this turnaround can be directly correlated to the Academy for GOD, Castro remarked that he receives credit through conversations and personal stories. His backyard neighbor, who has lived in the area for decades and calls himself the “Mayor of Hopewell,” often lets Principal Castro know how much he appreciates that the school moved into his neighborhood. He commented, “I remember when kids couldn't walk in these streets, and now I see them playing. And it's such a great thing for me to be able to see that my neighborhood was turned around.” 

Community service is a key component of the Academy's mission and vision and has played a significant role in the neighborhood's transformation. Students are encouraged to connect with often unseen and underserved populations, including refugees in the Nashville area, widows, and the elderly. Students regularly visit a nearby retirement home to intentionally connect with the older generation. They sing to the residents and listen to their stories, valuing their wisdom and guidance.

This big impact is remarkable considering how short the school has been in existence. But Castro and his colleagues credit the clear mission and vision God has given them to reach this community and to “offer this education to people who otherwise wouldn't have access to it.” Castro went on to explain that, despite the changes in the neighborhood, their TN campus still has a significant low socioeconomic population, and they offer roughly $400,000 worth of scholarships or discounts to over 50% of their school families.

The financial ramifications of this decision represent a real loss of revenue, and they have to rely on the help of others to meet their budgetary needs. “Even though we’re a private school, we're not doing this for the money,” Castro explains. “It's the Lord's, and we lean on being good stewards of what we have been given and not being afraid to ask for assistance from ACSI and others. We're not ashamed that we're doing it either, because we know that we're doing it for the Lord and we're doing it for these kids.”

Thanks to the generous financial support of donors, ACSI is proud to help the Academy for GOD access the incredible benefits and resources ACSI membership has to offer. When asked what benefits they find most valuable, Principal Castro was quick to respond with “accountability and counsel.” He explained that the staff appreciates the accountability ACSI’s Legal Legislative team and resources provide, especially regarding their statement of faith.

They also value the opportunities for connection, counsel, and discussion ACSI provides through the Community platform. He and his staff are able to connect with and pose questions to other administrators and teachers who have different backgrounds and ideas, which in turn helps enhance the Christ-centered educational experience for students.

This is ACSI’s mission in action. We exist to strengthen Christian schools, like the Academy for GOD, and equip Christian educators, including Alex Castro, as they prepare students academically and inspire them to become devoted followers of Jesus Christ. No matter where a school is located in the world or what innovative model they use to educate, the investment you make now will make an immeasurable difference for generations to come.

Our future leaders, professionals, educators, and difference-makers are in the classroom today. Together, we can support their access to quality Christ-centered education and ensure that everything these children do is through the lens of their faith. Thank you for investing in this movement and helping more Christian schools connect with ACSI today at

“It all boils down to investment in the future. The investment into those people who are going to be your future leaders. When you donate towards schools that are doing what we do [as Christian educators], you're donating towards the future workforce to provide them the opportunities to have those things that you want—people that can critically think, can problem solve, and can work well with others… These are going to be the people that are going to lead in the future. So why not invest in them. Now.”

-Alex Castro, Principal, The Academy for GOD