Ron Silverman's dream to launch a faith-based school in Solon Township for at-risk teens using horses and biblical training is still a work in progress but strides have been made to make his goal a reality.
Silverman succeeded in purchasing Calvary Assembly of God's church and its accompanying six acres on 17 Mile Road. He intends to use the building as an alternative year-round Christian school Silverman has named 2nd Chance School. Once operational, it would teach 30 boys and girls at a time.
Not horsing around
The unconventional school would combine biblical lessons with traditional subjects such as math and history with the care of horses. 2nd Chance's curriculum would include instilling character, hard work, humility and unconditional support for one another via equine therapy. Silverman said he received a special land use permit from Solon Township officials to use the building as a school.
Although 2nd Chance School is not yet operational, the Kent County Court system does assign kids who've been convicted of committing infractions to fulfill community service sentences by tending to a garden at the 17 Mile site on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The produce raised from the garden will be donated to food banks, said Silverman.
Then on the second and fourth Sunday at 6 p.m., a cowboy church service is held that draws an average of 80 people who enjoy the relaxed and easy going ambience.
Cowboy church drawing people
"We're doing it for two reasons: To bring unchurched people to God and to draw people who don't attend a normal church," said Silverman. "Our people are not ready to hear a sermon but they will listen to a testimony That's what our people want to hear. So we have a different speaker and music each time. The other reason we're doing it is to bring awareness to what we're trying to build with Second Chance. It's working."
Meanwhile, Silverman continues to find ways to raise the $375,000 needed to construct a 20,000-square foot barn that will house the 18 horses 2nd Chance School needs to teach teens a work ethic and problem-solving skills.
At press time, $100,000 has been raised. A specialist skilled at fundraising for nonprofits has been hired, said Silverman. A site plan for the barn has been approved, according to Silverman.
"This should give us a huge boast," Silverman said of the fundraiser specialist. "For the safety of the kids and the animals, I need that square footage to do it. We (will be) a year-round school so we'll be using the barn to work the horses year around."
Once 2nd Chance School is operational, 15 teens would work with the horses in the morning while another 15 would receive classroom instruction. Then later in the school day, the students would rotate. The teens would live with their foster or biological parents.