United4Hope Coordinator Interview: Josie Hayes

Laura: Hello, Josie! Please introduce yourself and tell us about your background. 

Josie: Hello Faithful Readers, before I introduce myself, I would like to give God all the Glory and Praise for His goodness, love, and provisions.  

My name is Josie Smith Hayes. I grew up in Olivet Missionary Baptist Church and was baptized at the age of seven. It was important to my parents that I understood that I have a purpose in life. Along with my parents, I was nurtured by the congregation of Olivet and our community neighborhood. Throughout the years, I have participated in church activities, served on different committees, planned field trips, worked in the community, and taught Sunday School.  

I started teaching elementary school in 1974. I brought the love and nurturing skills from my parents, church, and community into the classroom. To be successful, I knew I had to build community with my students and parents. I established positive working relationships with each child, not only so they could master the required skills and standards, but so they could learn to lead a productive life.  

As I look back over my life, I see my growth both spiritually and physically. It helped me to understand that God’s will for us is to love, care, and support each other. Ephesians 2:10 is one of my favorite scriptures because it says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  

I currently work at Maplewood High School as the School Improvement Team Lead. 

Laura: What led you to want to academically support all students around Nashville, not just students at Maplewood High School? 

Josie: During COVID, teachers worked virtually from home and in-person church services were suspended. During this period, with changes in our schools, churches, communities, and world; the crisis weighed heavily on my mind. It felt as though God was pushing me in another direction or putting me on a different path, but the push was still about helping and supporting children.  

When students had to attend virtual classes due to the pandemic, I constantly thought about the barriers students faced by not being in the classroom for daily instruction. In addition, students’ parents had difficulties in working with technology to help support their children, and many of them were not able to attend work. On top of COVID, a destructive tornado came through in March of 2020 which demolished homes and schools. I am sure you will agree that the year 2020 will go down in the history books! 

Once the school doors reopened after COVID and parents went back to work, the State of Tennessee enacted the following law: “Beginning  with the 2022-2023 school year, a student in the third grade shall not be promoted to the next grade level unless the student is determined to be proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) based on the student’s achieving a performance level rating of ‘on track’ or ‘mastered’ on the ELA portion of the students most recent Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test.”   

This message was so disheartening to me. I talked with our Pastor of Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, Michael Cousin, and member Sis. Meco Polk, on how to support and help our third-grade students pass the TCAP test. In the meantime, Pastor Cousin, Deacon Graves, and I tutored high school students in reading to help prepare them for the EOC year-end assessment.  

Our concern was so great for our third-grade students and the Tennessee law, that we created a team of committed people at Olivet Missionary Baptist Church and implemented a Tutorial Program to work with third-grade students. To get the program started, we canvassed all elementary schools in our surrounding area and in the area east of the Cumberland River. We talked to principals, delivered flyers, talked to parents and teachers. We scheduled on-going meetings to ensure that our purpose for the tutoring program was clear and on point. 

Our team provides much more than tutoring. Our team provides mentorship to help our students understand the value of education. Our members provide snacks for the students and have all the equipment/materials in place before each session starts. We use the IXL program, which is a personalized learning tool, custom-built skills to reinforce the reading content area.  

We are in our second year of tutoring, and our theme for the 2023-2024 school year is ONE. We are all working together for the betterment of our children. In all our efforts and commitment to our students, we have partnered with United4Hope through Metropolitan Public Schools. Dr. Battle (MNPS) made the statement, “we cannot do this work alone.”  This is a true statement. It really takes a village to raise our children into productive adults! 

Along with tutoring, our church does In-Kind donations through United4Hope. We provide food boxes to community families through Maplewood High School’s Family Programs. The church has hosted outdoor carnivals and activities to surrounding communities, pairing with different agencies within Metro Government. We applaud United4Hope for creating the In-Kind Donations area of service into their program.  

Laura: How do you communicate volunteer opportunities to congregants at Olivet Baptist Church? 

Josie: I communicate effectively with all members at Olivet, United4Hope, MNPS, and Maplewood High School. Our tools of communication are monthly newsletters, Sunday mornings Online Announcements, weekly emails, call-out system, and scheduled group meetings.  

Laura: What is the “Why” that drives you to continue to pour into children and families? 

Josie: At this point in life, through my growth, wisdom, and experiences, I know my inner motivation, thoughts, and compassion come from God, guidance from my parents, the love of my family, nurturing from my neighborhood and church, and accomplishments I have seen through my students.  

I understand that I must stay on the path that God has set before me. If I stumble, He will put me back on the right path. How do I know this? Because I truly trust, love, hope, and believe in God’s promises, oaths, word, and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  

I would like to continue with the tutorial program and support the community! What is my next ministry? If the Lord spares me, I would like to teach bible lessons or a book study to the women at the Family Life Center on Rosa Parks Blvd. This center houses women and children that are homeless or come from abusive settings. Is this desire strong…yes! Where am I currently…I am waiting for God to give me the okay to move forward.  Amen! 

To quote lyrics from the song –  

I Believe: I believe above the storm the smallest prayer will still be heard; I believe that someone in the great somewhere hears every word!  

Then I know why I believe! I genuinely believe – Regardless of all circumstances, God is doing His Will on Earth and Hears Every Call! Amen! 

Thank You! 

Josie S. Hayes