BROOKSVILLE — Luis Leon recently found it frustrating to navigate the red tape of finding a non-public school option for one of his sons.
Leaning on their years of experience working with the community and as pastors of Jesus Cares Ministries, Leon and his wife, Mayra, settled on an alternative that will not only help them and their children, but also help other parents and students by educating them on multiple levels.
On Monday, the Leons will ask the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission for a special exception use permit to operate religious educational programs at the corner of Ganz Drive and Ponce De Leon Boulevard, the site of a former day care center.
Their plan is to open the Life-Vida Training Center as a Christian school for up to 30 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. They will use the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum. They know the curriculum well since they spent years homeschooling their own children.
The individualized program allows students to move at their own pace and provides one-on-one support, said Cheryl Thomas, who will be dean at the school and one of the teachers.
When the school is not in session for children, the building will be used for a variety of other classes. Adults will take classes on everything from etiquette and public speaking to fine arts and prayer.
Leon said they are especially interested in helping children who are aging out of foster care who need to focus on their future. Mrs. Leon has been involved in the Guardian ad Litem program for several years and has a special interest in that area, her husband said.
"We want to give them those life-coping skills they will need,'' Leon said.
The bilingual training center will also serve as a place for those who are interested in continuing their education in their faith and then taking that knowledge back to their congregations. In addition, there will be classes that can lead to an associate's or bachelor's degree in ministry, Leon said.
He sees the training center as an opportunity to draw faith-based organizations and people together in a network so they can move people forward to the next level and provide parents and children the information they need to reach their goals.
"We're very proactive about education,'' Leon said.
One workshop he said he wants to present will teach parents about the options they have when it comes to educating their children. If parents get frustrated navigating the system, he said, "then kids fall through the cracks.''
Networking with other organizations such as Career Central and area homeless shelters is also planned.
"We strongly believe in networking,'' Leon said. "There is power in unity.
The Leons have seven children, ages 11 to 27, and Mrs. Leon has authored a Christian self-help book called Root Issues.
Leon said they have contacted people they know from all over Central Florida and even outside the state who are volunteering to come and teach some of the classes. They have also gotten a lot of help from their own congregation in setting up the school.
"They believe in the vision we have,'' he said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.