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Woodlawn Baptist Academy to close in May, Atoka Family Fellowship takes over

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Atoka Fellowship 1 Atoka Fellowship 2 Atoka Fellowship 3 Atoka Fellowship 4 Atoka Fellowship 5Woodlawn Baptist Academy opened its doors back in 1969 in Frayser starting a tradition of education and faith.
After years of several graduates and a move to the campus located at 6083 Old Millington Road in Millington, it appeared this May was going to be the conclusion of that tradition. Although the name will be retired, the mission of providing quality education with a foundation of faith will continue under the name of Atoka Family Academy.
On May 20 when the doors close to Woodlawn Baptist Academy, the scheduled debut of the Atoka Family Academy will be May 23.
Atoka Family Fellowship pastor and founder Billy Thomas said the journey toward the transformation of the building at 6083 Old Millington Road started a few years ago.
“The good Lord laid this vision upon my heart when I was getting out of the youth ministry about 4 years ago,” Thomas said. “We left in faith from Kerrville Assembly of God and we started Atoka Family Fellowship in our living room at 3400 Ray Bluff Road.
“And we grew within a few months time and moved over to Tipton Road into the former Post Office BBQ,” he added. “We moved into there and was there for 8 months. We had to move out of there because we grew so much We moved into the facility we are in now, 2086 Atoka-Idaville Road.”
Now the next chapter of growth for Atoka Family Fellowship will be the school. With his wife Jeri by his said, Thomas said he is currently building the staff for Atoka Family Academy.
The school opening Aug. 15 will be from day care to 12th grade. The facility has classrooms, a cafeteria and a sanctuary for chapel.
The 45-year-old Thomas said he has the energy, passion and spiritual mission to take on this challenge of opening a school taking the baton from Woodlawn Baptist’s Mike Kennedy.
“It was on my heart,” Thomas said. “Mr. Kennedy, I asked could I meet with him and just talk since there talks about them shutting it down. I asked him how would he feel if we were just to take it over. What we will be doing is renting this facility from him.”
The new school will be tuition-based and the day care will be weekly payments. Thomas, the son of Kay and Ronnie Thomas, grew up in the Memphis area attending Munford High School.
Along with his wife Jeri, he helped raise two sons Nicholas and Samuel. He started his journey toward opening Atoka Family Fellowship working in the youth ministry for 6 years.
Working with children and seeing the current state of schools in the area, Thomas felt it was important to give area residents a good option for their children’s education.
“I’m praying hard about this,” Thomas said. “I want to give the kids a good quality education and get them prepared for college. At the same time teach them about the love of Christ.
“I’ve been blessed with Christina (Halleron),” he continued. “She’s going to be our guidance counselor and she’s going to them ready for college. I was one of these people who thought school didn’t matter. Education does matter. Education is everything. I want to make sure the kids are prepared. If it grows, I pray to God it does. But how well it grows, I just want it to do what God wants it to do.”
Atoka Family Academy will operate under the verse of Job 28:7. The school will be the home of the Falcons and the colors will be blue and white. Registration will be from Aug. 1-5 with the first day of school Aug. 15.
“Our mission is to reach one child at a time through the Lord’s work,” Thomas said. “That includes teaching the love of Christ. That includes giving them a good quality education.
“I realize now as a child how I neglected my education,” Thomas concluded. “At 16, I thought I knew it all. But now that I’m an older man, my body is paying for through multiple surgeries. I want to prepare the kids so they can go out there and make a good living.”
For more information, call 358-5150.
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