H.O.P.E. Academy’s History
H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Excel) Academy opened its doors to 19 eager youngsters in September, 1996. A ten year vision became a reality to Pastor P.M. Smith and the members of Huber Memorial Church. HOPE Academy was the first church-based school in Baltimore to use the Calvert Curriculum. This curriculum was chosen because of its track record of high student achievement. The Calvert Curriculum focused on the development of basic skills in reading, math and writing, while stressing phonics and homework. Students’ work folders were sent home monthly for review and then returned to school. In addition, the school focused on multi-cultural education and spiritual development. Field trips, Bible lessons, music, physical education and art classes were important components of the total curriculum. Later, Spanish was added to the curriculum.
It was determined from the very beginning that HOPE Academy would be a uniform wearing school. Therefore, on the first day of school, children were dressed in their yellow and green uniforms and regulation shoes as they entered the building. The girls wore plaid jumpers and yellow blouses, while the boys wore ties with yellow shirts and green slacks. No tennis shoes were permitted.
Rev. P. M. Smith, who became the pastor of Huber Memorial in 1983, consulted several educators and ministers involved in the establishment of other Christian schools for advice before sharing his vision with his congregation. Plans for the school did not get underway until the church relocated from The Alameda to its present location on York Road. Though adjacent to the church, the school was a separate building that was once used for church activities. The church lost space as the school expanded to include two classrooms, a multi-purpose room used for assemblies and lunch, a computer lab, administrative offices and a library.
During the first year, Ms. Helen Moore served as principal and teacher of the first and second grade students. The Academy’s other 17 students were instructed by Ms. Wanda Dixon, an early childhood instructor, and Ms. Shirley Mikes, an assistant. Ms. Lillian Thomas served as our first school secretary and continued in this capacity for many years. Rev. P. M. Smith conducted the assembly daily for students and parents in HOPE Academy’s chapel. Pastor Smith believes that success is incomplete unless something is done to develop students’ character through relationship building. To this end, morning devotions became a permanent component of HOPE Academy’s instructional program.
Dr. Mary Nicholsonne, a retired associate superintendent of the Baltimore City Public School System, had little time to rest and relax before agreeing to come on board as the second principal of HOPE Academy. Dr. Nicholsonne used her 32 years as an educator to grow the school from three classes to a full-fledged academy with over one hundred students and a staff of 18 persons. She worked diligently with staff and parents to ensure high student achievement and strong character development. Dr. Nicholsonne also instituted an after school program which encompassed a variety of activities including dance, karate, arts and crafts, and piano lessons.
The torch was passed to Ms. Earlene Cole, a retired principal of the Baltimore City Public School System, who served as our third instructional leader. Under Ms. Cole’s leadership, our students continued to excel and grow in wisdom and stature.
Following Ms. Cole in her leadership role was Mrs. Mary McCrea. Mrs. McCrea, a former principal in the Baltimore City Public School System, was also the teacher of HOPE Academy’s first fifth grade graduating class.
Dr. Kimberly Evans Douglas served as principal from 2007 until 2013. Dr. Douglas worked diligently to make HOPE Academy not just another school, but one that promotes excellence in its academic program and teaches Christian beliefs and values that build positive self-esteem and character.
Our current appointed principal, Mrs. Yolonda Lambirth, comes to HOPE Academy with skills and expertise in education leadership. She is a former Baltimore City Public School principal. Mrs. Lambirth believes that educational possibilities for all students are limitless and she sets the scene for many great things to come.