Group helps pay for Christian education

Published 10:55 pm Friday, November 21, 2008

When her son was only 2 years old, Monica Lassiter made the decision to put him in a Christian school.

“I just like the values that they teach,” said Lassiter, whose son, Marquis, goes to First Baptist Christian School. “Everything is taught from a Christian perspective.”

Marquis, now 14 and in the ninth grade, said he prefers First Baptist, as well.

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“I don’t want to deal with all the drama of a public school,” he said. “Fights and guns and drugs and stuff.”

As a single parent in today’s economy, though, Lassiter struggles to pay tuition – and the amount grows as Marquis gets older.

But Faith First Educational Assistance Corp. is making it possible for her to continue sending her son to First Baptist Christian School, she said.

Faith First is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing scholarship assistance to parents who wish to place their children in Christian schools, but are facing financial obstacles preventing them from doing so.

It’s an important mission, according to founder Alberta Wilson.

“The day and age in which we live makes it imperative that parents put their children in schools that have the same values and convictions (they do),” Wilson said.

Many Christian parents every year face the choice of placing their children in public schools for free or sacrificing thousands of dollars to put their children in schools that hold the same values and morals they do. The Lassiters’ story is one of thousands across the nation, Wilson said.

That’s where she got the idea to start Faith First 10 years ago. As the principal of a Christian school in Philadelphia, Pa., she witnessed the heartbreak of parents who could not afford to keep their children in Christian school any longer.

She started Faith First in Pennsylvania to help parents avoid that very situation. With only $2,500 from a corporate donor, she hosted a reception for parents to come and apply for scholarships – for which she didn’t even have the money yet.

Eight students received scholarships that year, and the program has grown. Various other companies and individuals have put in their share of funds, and the organization now gives out more than 20 $500 scholarships every year.

Three years ago, she felt led to bring Faith First to Suffolk. Marquis Lassiter was one of the first scholarship recipients in Virginia.

“He has told me he didn’t want to go anywhere where they couldn’t discuss God and Jesus,” Monica Lassiter said. “The Christian values we share in our home, he gets the same thing from school.”

Marquis and 20 other students at 13 Christian schools throughout Hampton Roads received $500 scholarships at a Faith First banquet last week. Though she hopes to expand the program in the future, Wilson says she’s taking it one student at a time.

“A Christian education is more in line with what the parent wants as the steward of that child,” she said. “I believe that Christian education is important. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. I believe that to the core of my being.”

For more information about the organization, visit