Worthy Convos: The Big Heart of Rivertree Academy
Rivertree Academy is a small school with a big heart, serving underserved pre-kindergarten through elementary students in the Lake Como neighborhood. The Christian academy opened its doors in 2015 and has doubled its student population since, adding additional grades, teachers, and staff. Now, in its seventh year, the school continues its mission through community support and funding. Recently, Rivertree Academy was a 2022 ToolBox recipient of the North Texas Community Foundation Grant cycle, which aims to strengthen organizations uplifting vulnerable communities. Justina Jenkins, Head of School, discusses the value of educating under-resourced students to live life well.
Explain the mission and history of Rivertree Academy.
Rivertree Academy’s mission is to educate under-resourced students to live life well: following Jesus, thriving academically, and transforming their communities. While serving students living primarily in the Lake Como neighborhood, the student body at Rivertree Academy comes from a multitude of backgrounds and family situations – each student brings a unique story to our school.
In an effort to best serve each student that walks through our doors, Rivertree approaches education with a focus on the whole child – spiritual, academic, and social well-being.
Rivertree Academy opened the doors for our inaugural class in August 2015, welcoming 46 students in grades pre-K [4-year-olds] through 2nd grade. Each year, we have added students and grades, expanding our campus locations in the process. We are currently in our seventh school year and have 94 students starting at pre-K [3-year-olds] through 5th grade.
Your school currently serves the students of the Lake Como neighborhood. Is there a plan to expand into other areas of Fort Worth?
Rivertree Academy was founded with the intent to serve the Lake Como community; it is where we’ve planted our roots and plan to stay for the foreseeable future. During the enrollment process, current Rivertree Academy families and children in the Lake Como community are at the top of the list to secure a spot. At the end of this process, if there are any spots remaining for students living outside the Lake Como community, we will open enrollment to those students.
As far as expanding the school beyond the Lake Como community, right now, our focus is serving the children living in this neighborhood.
What resources are most critical when it comes to allocating funds received by community grants like NTCF?
Community support is critical – funding from grant makers like the North Texas Community Foundation, as well as other generous individual donors, churches, foundations, and local organizations, helps make our mission a reality. Rivertree Academy’s goal to provide an excellent, Christ-centered education that will set our students up for future success starts with our incredible staff and teachers – we do everything possible to ensure they are equipped to serve our students. Nearly 100% of our budget comes from philanthropic funding – we are grateful for the community’s investment in our students’ education.
Rivertree’s offers programs and services that address the whole child. What does this mean?
Our whole-child approach addresses the spiritual, physical, emotional, and educational needs of our students and centers around relationships with our students. We incorporate trauma-informed practices to effectively build relationships with all of our students, particularly those who struggle with difficult home situations. Our classrooms provide daily interventions and enrichment on a school-wide basis to help as many students as possible thrive.
Volunteer-led mentoring, Behavior Management Plans, one-on-one counseling, chapel services, the intentional communication in the classroom, and Restorative Practices sessions are a few of the very unique tools we use to serve students both academically and behaviorally. Rivertree puts the family at the center of the solution and intentionally engages parents in a variety of ways. We know that to be successful, we must partner with each family in addressing their student’s needs.
What would you like the FTW community to know about Rivertree Academy?
We’ve built our school on a foundation of academic (small classroom sizes with individualized attention; curriculum that goes beyond the basic core subjects) and social (trauma-informed care; mentoring; Behavior Management Program) distinctives, while also incorporating core values of Faith; Excellence; and Magnanimity. Our innovative approach to education gives children living in generational poverty a bigger vision for their lives and shows them that their current circumstances do not dictate their future.
The goal for each student graduating from Rivertree Academy is to prepare them to continue their education beyond our school. Teachers and staff intentionally pour their time, talent, and love into each student, equipping the young scholars for the future. We desire for our students to matriculate into programs that will continue the work and build upon the foundation that Rivertree has laid for our students.
We are extremely proud of the progress and growth each student shows while attending Rivertree Academy – we believe that our teachers and staff prepare each student for academic and spiritual excellence in the future.
Tell me more about the second annual pickleball tournament.
Pickleball Tournament occurred on Friday, May 20th, 2022! The tournament took place at TCU Tennis Courts, and the finals and after party was at Courtside Kitchen. It was a great day filled with friendly matches, food and drinks, and fun! Each year, the Big Dill Pickleball Tournament helps raise mission-critical funds, while playing one of the fastest growing and most exciting sports out there!