The sound of children fills the air inside New Era Church most
weekday afternoons. It’s a sound that gets louder as you walk past the
sanctuary and begin to meander down the winding basement stairs.
At the end is an expansive room where long folding tables
and chairs are filled with children of varying ages — about 30 of them. While
some work on timed math problems, others master their reading skills using sight
words on flashcards. Each group is supervised by an adult volunteer.
Walking around, making sure that everyone is on task is Hope
Moore, founder of Operation More Hope. The enrichment program housed inside New Era Church runs Monday through Thursday during
the school year for neighborhood students from Elder W. Diggs School 42.
Each day, students arrive at the church around 3:50 p.m.
(via IPS bus), eat dinner, participate in group enrichment activities, do homework
or remediation work, and receive grade-level academic help from certified
teachers. The day ends at 7:30 p.m.
The goal of the program is simple.
“We work with Elder Diggs to try to get the students up to
where they need to be academically,” said Moore, who’s also the First Lady of
New Era Church and the director of its Children’s Ministry.
Elder Diggs students in Grades 1–6 enrolled in Operation
More Hope are chosen based on school assessments in reading and math, said Jean
Ely, Elder Diggs assistant principal.
“These are children who are behind or below grade level,
academically,” added Moore. “They were recommended because of their low test
To get the desired results, Moore, her staff and volunteers
are serious about the work they put into the program. When Operation More Hope
began during the 2013–2014 school year, there were 45 students. There are now 30.
“That’s because we work. We don’t come in here and play,”
said Moore. “A lot of children transitioned out because they didn’t want to
work, some moved to a different school and some have parents who aren’t
responsible. This is a very rigorous program. … You fall in love with them (the
children) and it breaks my heart when one of them drops out for no good
But when the goal is making sure students are sound,
academically, there’s no time to play around. Students receive assessments to
determine where they are academically before entering the program and are
tested again throughout to gauge progress.
They’re making strides — not just academically, either.
“We have seen improvement academically, socially and
emotionally with our scholars,” said Ely. “One of the first things that Sis.
Hope shares with us is data gathered from pre and post assessments, which shows
growth. New Era also sends a volunteer over every Thursday to meet with one of
our young ladies for lunch. This is an additional layer of support.”
It’s a community partnership between the church and the
school that is vital for all involved.
Not only are students benefitting, but so are Elder Diggs
teachers and parents. The program provides support for parents through its food
pantry, counseling services and annual Back-to-School events, which provide
free school uniforms, backpacks and school supplies.
In addition to academic assistance, the teachers and
staff at Elder Diggs are treated to various perks throughout the year, including
catered meals during teacher in-services and for Teacher Appreciation Day.
Students who do well in the program are also
incentivized. Those with good behavior, attendance and grades receive
scholarships to attend Kids Across American (KAA) summer camp (for the older
kids) in Branson, Mo., and take trips during the summer (for the younger
children) to nearby attractions. This year, about 12 kids from Elder
Diggs will attend the weeklong KAA camp, while children 8 and younger will
attend the Chicago day trip.
“We do this because New Era values education. Not only
spiritual education, which definitely is our ultimate goal, but we also value
secular education. People bettering themselves,” said Moore.
Through this community partnership, New Era is taking the
saying “Beyond the church walls” to another level.
“The church is part of the community. It’s a major part,”
said Reuben Davis, assistant director of the Children’s Ministry at New Era,
who works closely with Moore on Operation More Hope. “The churches in these
communities are the heartbeat because we get to do things other organizations
can’t do. We get to get on the heart level with people … helping people with
their lives in general; caring for the kids in another way.”
For Davis, a former educator and an IPS alum (including
Northwest Community High School), working with students, staff and parents is
“Just growing up in the same kind of neighborhood as most of
these children and also going to school at IPS my entire life, I’ve always
wanted to give back,” said Davis. “I look at them as an extension of my family.
Just being able to be sensitive to their struggles and the things they’re going
through. But also raising the bar for them … We can’t make that an excuse for
In an area plagued by teen pregnancies, high school
dropouts, drugs and violence, Moore said part of the church’s mission is to be
a conscience in the community and to help others.
“It’s imperative among the church to partner with the
schools to help the babies grow and blossom,” said New Era Senior Pastor, the
Rev. Dr. Clarence C. Moore. “They need a safe place, a loving place, a
different paradigm than what they’re used to.”
He and his wife
believe Operation More Hope gives students a fighting chance.
“While our ultimate goal is to reach every scholar, we
know that there are so many external factors that might influence academic
performance, some of which our parents have no control over,” added Ely. “Operation
More Hope builds relationships with our parents, teachers and
scholars, supporting our efforts in addressing challenges that our
families might face. Having a safe, nurturing, caring environment to go to
daily will only increase their chances of becoming successful and productive
it’s about improving lives.
“If we can change just one kid’s life … I want these kids to
know that if they work hard, they can be somebody, and that’s our main mantra,”
said Hope Moore.