Plans Move Forward to Establish Urban High School

Akili logo

In a few months Dwell is hoping to fulfill a long standing dream of opening an urban high school, dedicated to helping students succeed, academically, relationally, and spiritually, as they transition from middle to high school and beyond. Akili is scheduled to start its first school year in July (dependent on current COVID-19 restrictions being lifted). It now has a website for more information: akilichristianhs.org.

The name Akili is a Swahili word meaning “the mind, common sense, wisdom,” and the school’s mission is to teach students the valuable trait of wisdom through their experiences and education at Akili.

Ari Adkins is the principal of Akili, and has been working with Student Ministries Division Coordinator Joe Botti to create and establish this new school. Ari says the idea was born out of Dwell’s history of working with low-income families through Urban Concern and Harambee Christian School. Although most Harambee graduates earn their high school diploma, many struggle spiritually in their high school years, succumbing to the difficult atmosphere they encounter in public high school. They have been invested into so wisely and lovingly while at Harambee, yet the pull of the world system is strong. Ari says, “Our hope is that by establishing Akili Christian High School, we can provide students with a sound spiritual environment as well as learning environment, equipping them with the skills they need to succeed relationally and functionally after high school and into our college ministry.”

To this end Akili will promote the Christian worldview with an emphasis on the importance of character. Akili will offer Bible classes as well as encouraging students to engage with Dwell high school Bible studies. They will also be mentored by mature adults—Dwell Life Coaches who can help with important practical skills like personal finance, nutrition, securing a driver’s permit, job acquisition, and skill-building. Ari says they not only hope to equip students for the real world, but also to equip and motivate them to return to mentor others with the same needs, and to become effective leaders in their communities as well.

Like Harambee, Akili will strive to help its students meet and exceed state academic benchmarks. Its curriculum will be set up to allow students to complete their graduation requirements by the end of their junior year, so their senior year can focus on one of 3 career pathways: college-preparatory, vocational (trades), and information technology/medical science.

To guide students into the best pathway, they’ll be able to explore different careers before their senior year through assessments and real-world shadowing opportunities. Akili is establishing partnerships with local businesses and organizations, including Columbus State Community College.

Ari says she and Joe began making concrete plans last summer, addressing both practical and abstract matters. “We’ve had to think through concrete matters like how students will get there, what time school starts, do we have funding in place, and are we legally approved to enroll students.” But she says, they have also thought about and talked through spiritual and cultural considerations such as what the school community will value and how to set students up for long-term success. “It is a balancing act of figuring out the practical pieces so we can address the most important parts. There are always unexpected obstacles, but God has been gracious in pointing them out to us as we proceed and removing them in His timing. I do get a sense that God is heavily involved in this process as He puts His finger on specific steps and seems to call our attention to them.”

Ari says these plans have developed from the input of many godly people. “I'm grateful to work with Joe, Alex Steinman (Harambee Executive Director and Principal), and several other wise members of our fellowship who have given excellent guidance throughout the process. I firmly believe no one achieves anything alone, and I know that Akili would not be at this point if it wasn't for the support of the body of Christ.”

As of right now, Ari says the biggest challenge ahead is enrollment. “We would like to see 20 students enrolled in Akili for next year, and we have been working hard to get the word out to Youth for Christ and Dwell middle school parents over the past few months. God has been bringing interested families through various channels to our parent information meetings, and we would like to see more spiritually interested students enroll.”

She says they are also trying to cover a number of practical requirements--parent/student handbooks, calendars, daily schedules, busing, and the government paperwork. “We would appreciate prayer for both enrollment and these practical needs in the next few months.”

Ari says the process of creating a high school from scratch has allowed God to stretch and grow her faith. “I've been reminded over and over again about the importance of prayer and entrusting plans to Him.” She says she has confidence about the school’s future: “The confidence I have comes from two solid truths in the Bible: first, that the God who created the universe is not daunted by the challenges involved in establishing a high school, and secondly, that God loves these students and wants to provide for them as His children. These truths have proved to be firm ground to rest our assurance on as we work towards our July start date!”

If you would like to receieve prayer updates or know of a student who might benefit, contact Ari at adkinsa@dwellcc.org.