Each year, the vision of the Rev. Dr. P.M. Smith culminates with the graduation ceremony of The H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Excel) Academy. Located at1808 Edison Highway in Baltimore, the school provides a quality, low-cost education in a Christian environment. The 21st Fifth Grade Commencement Exercises took place June 2, 2022, at the Huber Community Life Center, 5700 Loch Raven Blvd. in Baltimore. 

   The Keynote Speaker for the event was Emmy-Award winning journalist and WBAL-TV Education Reporter Dr. Tim Tooten, who encouraged the graduates: Lawson Ausby; Tommi Bazemore; Kiata Foster; Ayden Caple; Autumn Johnson; Genesis Jordan; Micah Pardue; and Josiah Thornton to never give up on their dreams. 

   In addition to The H.O.P.E Academy/Huber Child Development Center and The Huber Community Life Center, Huber’s physical plant and grounds also consist of Huber Memorial Church located at 5701 York Road, where Rev. Smith is Pastor. The H.O.P.E. Academy and the Huber Child Development are the expressions of the Huber Memorial Church: to RESCUE our children, to REDEEM our families, and to RECREATE our communities. 

For more than 36 years, The H.O.P.E. Academy has been helping kids to see brighter futures. 

   “The generation of my parents and grandparents focused my generation on education, and education transformed my life,” said Pastor Smith, who earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Michigan. “Education elevated me, and we owe the next generation what the previous generation gave us, and that was pushing for and receiving a quality education.” 

   Pastor Smith, said the school vaccinates their children with a spiritual immunity system, which is the Word of God. 

   “We pursue academic excellence at The Hope Academy, but there’s more to life. Some of the smartest men I ever met during my legal career were incarcerated. Character is what matters, so we focus on building character in addition to pursuing academic excellence. That is something that in many cases, is just not happening in our public school system today. The Hope Academy is an extension of our ministry to rescue our children, redeem our families, and recreate our communities.”

Genesis Jordan, Autumn Johnson, Kiata Foster and Tommi Bazemore were also among the graduates. 

   He added, “The reality of community is not based on geography, not based on economics, not so much based on ethnicity, but on commonly shared values nobody talks about anymore. At The Hope Academy, we try to make our students understand that good values are the foundation to building our communities.”

   The H.O.P.E. Academy opened in September 1996, and currently has more than 160 students ranging from Pre-K to grade five enrolled. Elena Simmons, is the principal of the school which has graduated many students who have gone on to attend college and achieve successful careers. 

    “I don’t know if my mom or dad could read,” said Pastor Smith. “But it was irrelevant because they lived a life that embraced and transmitted their values. And we didn’t know any better than to do the same thing for our kids. We raised our kids with good, Christian, biblical values. My mother and father came from an agricultural environment. You depend on the earth for your bank, and it gives you a direct channel to the Lord. You need rain and you need sunshine in certain stages of growth for your product. You are attached to the Lord, and you are productive. So, you can feed yourself and your kids.”

The H.O.P.E. Academy’s Class of 2022 included Lawson Ausby, Josiah Thornton, Micah Pardue and Ayden Caple.

   He added, When you have that attachment you have that divine dependency whether you can read or not. You understand that you need God, and you also have a healthy fear of God.” 

   Pastor Smith recalled a childhood that required completing chores and respecting elders. 

   “There were ten children on my father’s side and ten on my mother’s side,” said Pastor Smith. “I wondered why everybody had these big families, but we were the workforce,” he chuckled. “I had to sweep. Everybody had a job to do.”

   The Baltimore native said his upbringing came with high expectations. One that is reflected in The H.O.P.E. Academy’s motto – “Where Excellence Is Expected.”

   “We give our students a solid foundation,” said Pastor Smith. “We give them values rooted in faith that will hold. These are values rooted in Jesus Christ that say you can build a life, you can build a family, and you can build a community that will work.”

   According to Pastor Smith, Huber Memorial Church helps to subsidize the costs for students to make it more affordable. 

   “The average parent is a single mom dropping her child off at seven in the morning on her way to work, or a tech guy dropping off his baby. We know they can’t afford it, and that’s why the church has been subsidizing the cost for over twenty-five years. On average, they pay one hundred dollars a week, and you can’t get a babysitter for that amount.”

   He added, “Our daycare center is a feeder school for The Hope Academy. We also make sure that people don’t get caught up or confused about the value because some people treasure a certain item if they paid a certain amount of money for it. What The Hope Academy provides to our students in invaluable. The acronym for HOPE speaks to our intention, which is helping our people to excel.” 

   For more information about The H.O.P.E. Academy, call 410-327-9020.

Ursula V. Battle
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