Month of May brings opportunity, new classrooms for Jeremiah School

Jonathan Roberts • May 19, 2019 at 12:00 AM

For the Jeremiah School — a faith-based nonprofit school for children with autism — the month of May has shaped the school’s future, maybe more so than any month has in the school’s first two full years of operation.

May marks the school’s launch of its “May Match” scholarship fundraiser for a second year, this time with a group of donors pledging to match up to $30,000 in donations.

So far, the school has received an estimated $15,000 in donations. In addition, realty company Keller Williams used nearly $18,000 and two-and-a-half months of planning to give, and build, the Jeremiah School an outdoor learning space and a sensory room for students as part of their “Red Day,” a nationwide day of community service.

“This is probably our most important fundraiser of the year, (it) allows us to offer scholarships to families who aren’t able to pay the full tuition,” said Amy Lowe, executive director of the Jeremiah School. “Right now we have 50% of our current student enrollment receiving financial assistance — it’s so needed.”

“It’s a dream come true,” Jeremiah School Principal Jo Cullen said of the new sensory room and outdoor classroom. “We’re a young nonprofit … we could not afford to equip a room like this and for students with autism a sensory room is vital.”

Cullen also called the outdoor classroom a “huge benefit to us,” pointing to all of the use the outdoor space will get in future school years.

While the Jeremiah School is still new and currently has six students, Cullen noted that for a specialized school such as theirs — which is the only one of its kind in Northeast Tennessee — day-to-day operations aren’t cheap, especially as class sizes at the Jeremiah School are intentionally kept around five students and require specially trained teachers.

“It’s vital to get the (outside) support to open this school to as many people as possible,” Cullen said. “We work really hard fundraising ourselves, but there’s a limit to what you can do.”

For Keller Williams Realtor Donna Lampkins and the rest of her team, the Jeremiah School was a natural choice to partner with for the annual “Red Day” of community service.

“I think anytime you can give back, it comes back to you and that’s where the culture of Keller Williams comes in as well,” Lampkins said. “I think it’s a win-win.”

“This was weeks in the planning and it’s just exceeded my expectations,” she said.

For Cullen and Lowe, the help from Keller Williams and the donations via the “May Match” program has been “incredible.”

“We’re so immensely grateful … it’s given us such a lift to have this support from the community,” said Cullen.