Spotlight: New Hope Leadership Academy

Spotlight: New Hope Leadership Academy

This month, the Restoration Project Foundation Spotlight is on New Hope Leadership Academy (NHLA), a comprehensive academic and athletic mentoring organization dedicated to providing the quality education and essential life skills at-risk students need for success. Headquartered in Columbia, SC, and rapidly expanding to meet the needs of mentees in surrounding areas, New Hope is thriving under the leadership of Executive Director and Head Coach Demond Logan. “New Hope Leadership Academy is a great example of how effective RPF’s unique approach of partnering with existing mentorship programs can really be for the communities they serve,” said RPF CEO Craig Wooten, “and we are proud to support their great work in Columbia and beyond.”

Coach Logan is a career educator with twenty-six years of experience, primarily in the field of special education where extra mentoring plays a huge role in student success. The more he worked with students who were struggling socially or getting in trouble in class, the more he recognized the need for a comprehensive mentoring program specifically built to address the needs of at-risk students, “My biggest focus has always been on making sure they understand life skills and survival skills so they can be successful now and when they get out of school,” explained Coach Logan, “and that is how New Hope Leadership Academy came about.”

NHLA originally began as an athletic mentoring program with an extra twist. “We knew that athletics would get more kids involved,” explained Coach Logan, “and when getting them. involved with sports activities, we taught them that there were things they needed to do to be able to participate and play, including mentoring sessions every second and fourth Saturday and a community service program every month.” This approach was a success, and NHLA has expanded to include Virtual School, Leadership Academy, and New Hope Collegiate. “We want to make sure our kids have the skills and tools to be successful,” said Coach Logan, “so we focus on getting them involved, mentoring them in life and job skills, and giving them the opportunity to learn and experience a variety of new things that will benefit them now and in the future.” Restoration Project Foundation partners with New Hope, providing guidance, financial assistance, and volunteers so Coach Logan and his team can focus directly on the important work of supporting students.

New Hope’s core principles of mentoring, athletics, advisement, leadership, education, and scholarship provide the foundation for all of its programs. The organization’s primary goal is to provide the personalized structure and support struggling students need to complete their
high school diplomas and gain acceptance to the higher education institution or career opportunity that is the best fit for them. New Hope has partnered with The South Carolina Preparatory Academy, is a free online classical public charter school serving students in middle and high school across South Carolina. This partnership allows NHLA to provide a combination of personalized virtual academics and daily mentoring that they have found is particularly effective in helping students achieve their diplomas. NHLA also welcomes athletes who may not need assistance in the classroom, but who benefit from the organization’s focus on discipline, respect, and responsibility as they pursue athletics in high school and beyond. New Hope Collegiate is a two-year program for high school athletes who wish to continue playing sports while attending classes at Midland Technical College.

Exposure to new places, ideas, and opportunities is another core element of NHLA’s mentoring approach. “You never know what you want to do until you see something different,” said Coach Logan, “so we focus on traveling to different parts of the state for athletic events and college visits.” This is the first chance most of NHLA’s mentees have to spend time on a college campus, and the experience can be life-changing. “I took a young man, my track guy, to visit two colleges in Columbia known for their track programs,” said Coach Logan. “He’d never been on a campus before, but after the visits, he knew that college is where he wanted to go and the work he would have to do to get there.” Bringing kids together through athletics who have nothing in common and teaching them how to get along with each other, is another excellent way to provide exposure. “It is rough at first – you have to play together, work together, and travel together,” said Coach Logan, “but by the middle of the year, they are all in contact with each other, communicating, and looking out for each other.” Learning to navigate interpersonal relationships is vitally important, and Coach Logan focuses on lifting each other up. “We’re going to be one, not look at anybody differently, and treat everybody the same. We want everybody to understand how to get along, work with each other, help each other, and understand that everybody lives a little differently from each other.”

Word of New Hope’s positive impacts on students and the community have spread, resulting in an increased demand for the services NHLA offers. In addition to expanding programming within Columbia, several satellite locations have recently opened to serve students in the rural areas surrounding the city. Run by former New Hope athletes who have returned to serve as mentors, these locations perfectly represent Coach Logan’s desire to bring mentoring where it is needed. The most important component of this expansion is finding volunteers to serve as mentors. “The more places we are, the more activities we do, and the more volunteers we have, the more kids we can serve,” said Coach Logan. “You don’t have to come to everything, but anything you can do, please come and volunteer. We’d love to have you!”

Interested in supporting New Hope Leadership Academy? Volunteers are very welcome, particularly for athletics and community service events. Donations of recreational items, sporting equipment, water, Gatorade, and snacks are hugely helpful, as are donations provided to help underwrite all NHLA programs. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit https://www.nhlagladiators.com. To connect with another mentor partner site near you, please email us at mbailey@restorationprojectfoundation.org.

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