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New Course to Address Educating “Children of Poverty”

October 25, 2012

A new course scheduled for January’s intensive Winterim studies at Columbia International University focuses on how to minister to children whose learning ability is challenged by poverty. 

The course, “Ministering to Children of Poverty,” will be offered Jan. 14-18. It is an undergraduate and graduate-level elective available to current CIU students as well as non-degree seeking members of the community at a special price of only $250.     

The course will be taught by CIU alumnus Dr. Vernard Gant, the director of Urban School Services for the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). Gant graduated from CIU’s Undergraduate Program in 1977. He is also a graduate of Birmingham Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

At ACSI, Gant’s department oversees 350 Christian schools throughout the nation that target and serve urban, under-resourced, and academically at-risk students. Gant also sits on the boards of the Life Skills Schools, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and the Alliance for Choice in Education. In addition, he serves as a commissioner for the American Center for School Choice and chairs the Colorado State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Along with his wife, Gant helped develop two urban Christian schools in Birmingham, Ala.  

Gant recently answered a few questions about his work and the course “Ministering to Children of Poverty.” 

What do you remember most about CIU?

What I remember most is meeting my future bride and life ministry partner, Cynthia (Watts) Gant (class of ’77). We have worked together in ministry for 35 years.

Describe your work as director of Urban School Services at ACSI. 

I oversee approximately 300 Christian schools that identify themselves as urban schools. For the most part, these schools target and serve students who are mostly minority, or under-resourced, or educationally and socially at-risk. My department assists these schools with products and services that equip and enable them to effectively serve this student population.

The name of the course you’ll be teaching is “Ministering to Children of Poverty.” Is there a link between education and poverty? 

Definitely! No matter the source of poverty, an effective education has always been the ticket out of poverty. This was true in my case as I was born in public housing to the daughter of a sharecropper; it has been the case historically; it is equally the case today.  There are many services that can be provided for children in poverty such as food, clothing, shelter, toys, etc. These services only provide relief in poverty, but they don’t deliver from poverty. An education is the only way to provide whole scale release from poverty.

In what ways can educators “minister” to children of poverty? 

One of the reasons education is not working for the millions of children living in poverty in this nation is because an effective education requires more than content and credentials…it requires connecting. While they are important, children are not ultimately impacted by curriculum, textbooks, buildings, or the teacher’s credentials. When was the last time you heard a testimony from a former student about how a textbook impacted their life? Impact and transformation are always a matter of life-on-life engagement. From a relational standpoint, God’s people have at their disposal the most transformative power in all of creation — agape love. For under-resourced children the winning formula is: adequate resources, plus academic rigor mingled with authentic relationships, equals achievement results.

You and your wife Cynthia have helped develop two urban Christian schools in Birmingham, Ala. If there were more Christian schools in urban areas, would it help alleviate poverty?   

For the reasons cited above I firmly believe that Christian educators hold a vital key to helping alleviate poverty. A reality is that Christian schooling alone cannot substantially address the problem. In this nation there are nearly 25 million students whose family resources are such that they qualify for Free and Reduced Price Lunch. This means that these children either live in poverty or close enough to it that the chances are great that they cannot afford the cost of a Christian school education no matter how low the tuition. While these children have little and limited access to Christian schools, Christians who educate in the schools they attend generally have unlimited access to these children. It is possible for Christians to provide poor children with a Christ-honoring education in any educational venue whether it is a communist country or an American public school. I believe that Christ is honored when children are educated in a manner that:

  • Educates them in truth, because all truth is God’s truth
  • Enhances their God-given abilities
  • Esteems them as worthwhile individuals created in His image.
  • Encourages them to develop character
  • Equips them to be productive
  • Enables them to escape poverty

What do you hope students in “Ministering to Children of Poverty” will come away with after they finish the course?

My hope is that the students in the course will be thoroughly equipped as poverty agents with a mission to release children from poverty’s dragging anchor in such a way that brings honor to Christ.  

For more information and course registration contact the CIU Admissions Department at yesciu@ciu.edu, or (800) 777-2227, ext. 5024.  Or contact Connie Mitchell, dean of the CIU College of Education at cmitchell@ciu.edu, (803)-807-5393.