Smooth sailing for a Chesapeake program that takes aim at social promotions in public schools


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — At Unity Renaissance Spiritual Center in Chesapeake, the mission is transforming lives to transform the world. Lives, young ones, are under transformation in a church-based academic improvement program.

An army of volunteer teachers is working with children from three cities who are bright but potentially behind academically, even with summer school classes.

The program was founded by Kathleen Barnett who is a 40-year veteran of four public school systems in Virginia.

(Photo courtesy: My Space My Pace)

“This project is called My Space My Pace and the boys and girls here are receiving that one-on-one just like they are in a beak-out room minus the computer one on one human contact,” said Barnett.

Barnett’s team is taking aim at social promotions: situations where children get promoted to the next grade level without making the grade.

“They are already behind, so we are graduating young adults who are unable to read who are unable to use their basic skills in math. You know what happens: there is a ripple effect in our community that sometimes leads to a life that’s undesirable,” she said.

The undesirable is what Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone warns of when an undereducated population lives with poverty, crime, and mental health issues.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

“Those poor kids. They see violence almost every day, and they got to take that to school, and they are expected to perform, but they just saw somebody get killed,” he said.

Back at My Space My Pace, it’s nothing but smooth sailing. The children recently enjoyed a day on the Elizabeth River with their teachers. Senior Minister Paula Mekdeci is proud to be part of the transformation.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

“At Unity Renaissance church, the mission is transforming lives to transform the world. They [the teachers] spend that one-on-one time with children and go right to what they need they can make a huge difference in their lives,” said Mekdeci.

A dozen children are enrolled in the program. More could be added if additional volunteers join the effort. Barnett has also established a GoFundMe account in hopes others in the community will offer financial assistance to cover supplies, field trips, and other expenses.

For additional information contact Barnett at

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