Why its 75702 zip code makes Promise Academy a standout

It’s not difficult to locate a private school in Tyler, unless you’re looking north of Front Street. In fact, if you were looking there before Promise Academy began in 2015, you would have to travel back in time the better part of a century. Promise Academy is the first faith-based school in North Tyler in 80 years.

When I met with Sarah Cumming over the phone, she surprised me with this historical fact. It speaks volumes about our town’s division, growth and interests.

Sarah surprised me a second time. She told me that some families of Promise Academy pool tuition to ensure their children can attend. That’s right, they pool their money. While I have experienced parents pooling rides, time and skills to organize school events, pooling tuition is a whole new level of sharing.

Such is the spirit of some of Promise Academy’s families. According to Sarah, one of the common behaviors of families who share the school’s 75702 location —  whose poverty levels are nearly triple of other Tyler zip codes — is the ability to give and receive help.

Sarah talks about the joys and challenges of educating students in North Tyler, and how much of Promise Academy’s hands-on, nurturing practices feel stunted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Like many local leaders, Sarah is picking up new procedures and skills to give her students the best she and her staff can offer in precarious times.

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Jane Neal is the executive director of The Tyler Loop and storytelling director of Out of the Loop: True Stories about Tyler and East Texas. In addition to the Loop, she works at the Literacy Council of Tyler and attends Sam Houston State University remotely, where she studies sociology. Jane is a certified interfaith spiritual guide. She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and a former teacher of French at Robert E. Lee High School, where she ran a storytelling program called Senior Stories. Jane and her husband Don have four children.