Four years ago, Reagan High School was in a tough place. The school's academic performance was declining, and no principal was staying long enough to make a difference. Then there was the threat of what some feared to be inevitable—school closure. Everyday Reagan faculty, staff and students walked around campus knowing that unless things turned around in a big way, they would lose their school.
Reagan needed something, anything, good to happen. That's when a few community members decided that they wanted to find a way to bless the school. They thought that perhaps, if Reagan had a reason to hope for a better day, then maybe that better day would come. So they called a few friends and brought together a handful of local organizations and churches, including ASCC, and started planning. A few weeks later, there was HopeFest, a day-long celebration held on Reagan's campus that provided practical support to school families and fun activities for all ages.
The first HopeFest was undoubtedly successful, and its success has only increased each year since. The fourth annual HopeFest was held October 2011, and it served nearly 4000 people from the surrounding area. Dozens of local businesses, ministries and agencies were represented to tell attendees about the hands-on support and services they provide. Health screenings and consultations were offered in addition to legal advice and resume assistance. Adults could find information about empowerment opportunities through things like banking accounts, GED and ESL classes. Children spent their time riding ponies, navigating bike courses, making crafts and just goofing around in a safe place. Even those who simply wanted to sit and enjoy the beautiful day were entertained by live gospel choirs and poetry readings.
During the mid-day presentation, AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen stood on the stage and gazed out over the crowd sprawled across Reagan's campus. "There is no other community in this district that has rallied behind its schools in the way that this one has done," she said. Principal Anabel Garza, who is in her third year at what is now John H. Reagan Early College High School, also commended the Reagan community for the way that they have supported her faculty and students. Among those particularly thanked from the stage was the Austin Stone Community Church for the hundreds of people from its body that have volunteered their time and energy to tutor and mentor students, support teachers in their classrooms, and assist coaches with their athletic teams. RBI Austin and the For the City Network were also presented with a special award for their efforts dedicated to renovating the Raiders' baseball field in partnership with Major League Baseball Groundskeepers. And finally, a representative from America's Promise Alliance spoke to the crowd and announced that for the fourth time the St. John Community had been named one of the nation's 100 Best Neighborhoods for Young People.
It's clear that a better day has finally come for Reagan High School. And the hope that was birthed out of one event four years ago has been fostered and sustained by hundreds of people working together. Because they value the education of children and youth in St. John, because they desire to see the restoration of their city, they have become one body on a mission.