As we enter a new school year at Baptist Prep, we are encouraged by the resilience and strong foundation of our school community. We are a family drawn together by our desire for excellent education from a biblical worldview. Looking ahead with promise to what this year holds, we are taking a moment to look back at a snapshot of our ‘origin’ story and be reminded of our guiding values, principles, and heart that set the tone for our future over 40 years ago.
“My dad, Calvin Hagan, used to say, ‘We have a church building that sits empty from Monday to Saturday, why can’t we use this for a Christian school?’,” shared Shelley Newkirk, daughter of one of the Baptist Prep founders. “Years ago, my dad heard the head of a local Little Rock catholic school say, ‘public schools prepare kids for tomorrow, but we want to prepare students for tomorrow AND eternity’. This idea stuck with my dad and the Lord grew a passion in his heart that eventually turned into Baptist Prep.”
At that time, Shelley was attending a local private school where her dad sat on the board. Calvin Hagan, one of the Baptist Prep founders, was a self-taught man who grew up in a poor family. He taught himself how to read as an adult. He was an optimist, visionary and passionate about education.
“Dad spoke with Pastor John B. Wright and asked if the church could start a school,” continued Shelley. “Brother John told him that he had recently heard an impactful message from another pastor in Dallas about the importance of Christian education. Not long after this conversation, in 1981 Arkansas Baptist School (precursor to Baptist Prep) was founded as a ministry of First Baptist of Little Rock.”
The founders of Baptist Prep built the mission and vision of the school upon the discipleship of children for the glory of God. They wanted to prepare students spiritually and academically. They wanted students to be encouraged to be unwavering as light and salt in the world. Even the school colors and mascot were carefully chosen to represent the values and vision for the school.
“My dad always had a fondness for eagles and the characteristics they represent in the Bible,” shared Shelley. “I remember the eagle statues and pictures in his office. Before the school was launched, my dad traveled around the United States observing other Christian schools.
He would take notes on a legal pad for inspiration as he considered their school names, mascots, colors, and more. As a Korean War veteran, he was always patriotic and proud of his service in the military. The red and blue school colors along with the symbolism of an eagle were fitting to express the characteristics of honor, strength, unwavering spirit, and courage for the gospel.”
For Shelley, the ties to Baptist Prep continued long after her father helped found the school. After attending college, Shelley got a job teaching at the school and met her husband there. She taught on and off at Baptist Prep and all four of her children graduated from the school.
“Through my experience teaching and sending my kids to Baptist Prep, I have seen the mission that years ago my dad and others dreamed of come to life,” continued Shelley. “My children were well prepared for their college years. The teachers, community, and curriculum at Baptist Prep reinforced what we were teaching our children at home. Our experience at Baptist Prep helped lay a foundation and framework for where my children are today, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”