Amy Hanley is no stranger to challenges.
After all, the home-schooling mother of four faced her biggest challenge four years ago when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer while carrying her fourth child, son Joshua.
Hanley was featured in a September 2011 edition of The Journal, as well as in other publications, which detailed her fight to save the life of her unborn baby while saving her own. Since then, Hanley has continued to home-school her four children, conduct public speaking engagements to give her testimony about her experience, write a book called “Surrender; With Child, With Cancer,” and run a charity that provides chemo comfort bags to cancer patients.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Hanley has taken on a new challenge – she is the new principal of Union Christian Academy, located behind Union Baptist Church on Nowhere Road at Hwy. 106 south of Ila.
“I wasn’t planning this, but like so many other things in my life, it was a God-ordained thing,” Hanley said.
Before she became a mother, Hanley taught at Franklin County Middle School and says she loved being a teacher. But after she and husband Bobby (a Madison County native who grew up near Ila) became parents, they made the decision for her to stay home and home school their own children.
Then came a miscarriage, followed by another pregnancy and almost immediately after learning of that, came the cancer diagnosis.
The Hanleys made the difficult, and controversial, decision to keep the baby while she underwent chemotherapy. Now, with a healthy 4-year old and a cancer-free diagnosis for the past three-and-a-half years, Hanley said she was beginning to wonder if there was something else for her to do in her life.
That was when she ran into Suzy Seagraves at a children’s party. Seagraves, who currently serves as chairman of the Union Christian Academy board, told Hanley about the school
“I jokingly said, ‘you aren’t hiring are you?’ and she said, ‘as a matter of fact we are,’” Hanley remembers.
Seagraves said she had only known Hanley as a home school mother, and had no idea that she had been a public school teacher, let alone that she had a masters in education.
“She was just what we were looking for,” Seagraves said.
From there, Hanley set up a meeting with the headmaster, Dr. Raymond Morris, to interview for the principal’s position.
“I fell in love with this school right away,” Hanley said. “It has a family feel that I love.” She said she went into the interview more as a parent of four potential students, rather than as a potential principal.
“I am a parent first, so that was my first interest, because if I came here, so would they,” she said. “And this is the kind of environment I wanted for them, so coming here is a win-win.”
Hanley said besides the family feel and Christian-based environment, she also loves the small class size, which provides for lots of one-on-one teacher time for students.
The school has seven full time and two part time teachers currently. About 25 students have enrolled so far, though Hanley said they have a number of prospective families coming by for a visit.
“We have three more weeks of open enrollment,” she said. “We are a fully accredited, growing school and are beginning some new programs this year that we are very excited about.”
Among those new programs is 4-H, under the umbrella of the Madison County 4-H program. Hanley said the 4-H program at Union will also be open to home schoolers.
There will also be music classes and private lessons for students and a photography elective for high school students.
New half-day K3 and K4 classes will be added this year, along with after school care for full time students.
High school home school students and their parents can take advantage of a distance learning program where students come to the school a couple of times per week for tutoring and tests, while doing the bulk of their work online at home.
“That way a home school student can graduate from a fully-accredited high school,” Hanley said.
High school students at Union are also eligible for dual enrollment at Athens Technical College.
Hanley is also working with the school’s board to implement an athletics program at Union next year.
“We want this to be a ministry as well as a school,” Hanley said.
Seagraves said Hanley has brought a “contagious new energy” to the school and its mission. “She just never stops,” Seagraves said. “She puts her whole heart and soul into everything she does.”
Hanley says she has just learned through her experiences that it is important to live life “on purpose.”
“When I was so sick and thought I might die I had a lot of time to reflect on my life and now I know that there is a purpose for every day that I am given,” she said. “And I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
ABOUT UNION CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
Union Christian Academy, a ministry of Union Baptist Church, opened its doors last fall.
The school has actually been around since 1992, but up until last year it was located in Commerce and known as Providence Christian Academy.
Union Baptist Church invited the school to its campus, hence the name change. The school serves students not only in Madison County but in the surrounding counties of Jackson, Banks and Franklin, but welcomes students from any area.
“We are an affordable alternative to public school in a convenient location for several counties,” Hanley said.
The school is a Christian-based college preparatory school and a non-profit organization.
“We owe a lot to Union Baptist, who views this as a ministry of the church, though it is a separate entity,” Hanley said.
For more information on Union Christian Academy, call Hanley at 706-789-3845. There is also a website, www.unionchristianacademy.us.
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