The Bethel Learning Centers, are a Christian-based, uniformed preschool, academy and after school that serves children ages 8 weeks to first grade. We have a highly credentialed and well-trained staff that loves God and children. They are committed to quality education in a Christian context. Thus, we use the A Beka Curriculum which is Christian-based. Furthermore, we offer Spanish, Music, Computer Science and Physical Education. Presently, we are one of only four predominantly African American Elementary schools accredited in South Carolina by the South Carolina Independent School Association (S.C.I.S.A.). This accomplishment was a concerted effort of the entire board, school, and church. However, it was led by Judge Mildred Weathers-McDuffie (Chair of the Accreditation Committee), Diedre Niblock (Former Director), Rich Thompson (Former Business Manager) and Rev. Ronnie E. Brailsford, Sr. (Board Chair and Chief Executive Officer).
The vision for the BLC came from God through Pastor Brailsford and had a very humble beginning. Pastor Brailsford shared the conviction placed upon him one Sunday morning as he talked about the challenges with students receiving a quality education in many parts of South Carolina. The Spirit of the Lord said, “You can continue to curse the dark, or light a candle in the dark.” In other words, it was time to stop talking and start doing something about the problem. Initially, this led to partnering with E. E. Taylor Elementary School by providing an afterschool tutorial program. Retired and active school teachers, who were members of the church, volunteered to tutor students. The church’s impact was significant as parents shared how their children progressed to some of them making the honor roll. There were only 10-15 children daily, but the seeds of success and vision had been sown and taken roots.
The lack of space for educational training at the Sumter Street site was a great limitation to the vision. However, with the September 18, 1995 relocation to 819 Woodrow Street, a campus of 86,000 square feet with 107 classrooms and offices, the establishment of a Child Development Center, Christian Academy, Afterschool Program and eventual Kids University Summer Camp became a reality. God provided the space and increase as the BLC grew to be larger each year. As it grew numerically, its quality spiritually and academically, were par excellent!
This led to its first accreditation in the year 2003 and subsequent recertification from SCISA (The South Carolina Independent School Association). The reputation grew so fast that over 200 students were declined in a two year period due to a lack of space. Thus, the search began for more space beyond the campus. Eventually, the church’s Trustee Board decided to build a new building on the north section of the campus.
The legacy of education continues today. Thousands of children’s lives have been and will continue to be enriched because of the faith, vision, obedience and hard work of this generation. Children, yet unborn, will one day say, “Thank God for a people who loved children enough to sacrifice for them to have a brighter future.”
Thanks to the leadership of Bethel A.M.E. Church, the Bethel Learning Centers, the administration, teachers, parents, family members and friends, and most of all the children who have worked so hard to make this one of the best schools in the state of South Carolina.
Bethel Learning Centers’ mission is to provide high-quality care and education for young children in a nurturing and caring environment that honors the unique value of each child as a gift of God.