On Downs Boulevard in Franklin, New Hope Academy first graders are watching the dissection of a shark. Next door, their one-year-older counterparts are learning the ancient mummification process by embalming a chicken. And just down the hall, pre-kindergarten classmates are discussing the effects of chlorophyll.

For New Hope Headmaster Stuart Tutler, this type of forward-thinking curriculum is not a jaw-dropping one; it’s just another day at a school that he calls “a life-changing experience” for his students.

“This is an excellent educational experience for all students, but in particular students from low-income households,” he said.

It was through the school that Stuart first became familiar with Williamson County CASA and its mission: over the years, the he has interacted with CASA volunteers who were advocating for his students. But it wasn’t until this past year that the board member was approached to take a direct role in the non-profit organization.

“I love children, which is why I do what I do,” said Stuart, a father himself. “An organization that stands in as an advocate for kids? Well, it was an easy decision to make. Plus it’s hard to turn down Marianne [Schroer, WCCASA executive director]!”

Stuart, who was asked to step in as New Hope’s interim headmaster back in 2003, has led the elementary school for more than 10 years. Though he didn’t have a background in education before—he left a career in information systems for the role—he has continued to help mold the success of New Hope into an inspirational model for like-minded institutions across the country.

Today, the school has stuck to its original mission of providing a rigorous education to a student population that spans socioeconomic and cultural spectrums: 40 to 50 percent of each classroom is on scholarship.

“Though we offer our services to all families, what makes us unique is that we concentrate specifically on giving low-income students this opportunity,” he said. “We are very intentional about serving students from all backgrounds.”

Stuart says that since being on the WCCASA board, he sees striking similarities between the two missions.

“New Hope is here to see if we can assist or help educate the disadvantaged. CASA, in a similar way, does that in making sure these kids—especially the disadvantaged—are taken care of, or at least spoken for,” he said. “That’s a shared heart we have here at New Hope. It’s so close to our mission.”

Though Stuart is a busy man—in addition to WCCASA and New Hope, he also serves on three other boards—the New Jersey native says what drives him is his love for community, and for children.

“I love Franklin, and really find that this is one of the best communities in the United States. If in any way, shape or form I can contribute, I will,” he said. “This is a small-big town, and it’s all about relationships and getting to know one another. When you know the people you want to do the best for that community.”

Stuart’s children are all adults, but he says family is another aspect that drives him.

“I want these kids to have the same opportunities mine did,” he said. “But even if I didn’t have children, God’s placed something on my heart to love and care for kids in this life.”

To learn more about New Hope Academy, go here. To learn more about our board of directors, go here

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