Miracle Academy seeks to positively impact the lives of students
Published: March 1, 2023
By: Paige Townley
Some things are simply meant to be. One of those is Miracle Academy, a small private Christian school situated in the Riley community of western Birmingham. The school was founded in September 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, but not even that could deter the mission of the school or its founders, Greg and Rosie Mullen. That is perhaps because of the school’s namesake: their daughter, Miracle.
When Rosie was pregnant with Miracle, she began hemorrhaging badly and was expected to lose the baby. “It was to the point the doctor said there was nothing he could do,” Greg adds. “I read Scripture and prayed over Rosie all night. By midnight the hemorrhaging slowed down drastically, and miraculously it stopped by morning. The doctor even said it was divine intervention. That’s when we decided to name her Miracle.”
Miracle was born with Down syndrome. From kindergarten until fifth grade, she attended the same school in the Birmingham City Schools system. Yet after she completed fifth grade, the family found out she wouldn’t be accepted back for the next school year. “We were obviously very distraught and at first didn’t know what to do,” Greg says. “We were left with either sending her to the school she was zoned for, which wasn’t an option, or finding another school. Sudden changes like that can be incredibly difficult for children with Down syndrome.”
While sitting in the office of what became Miracle’s former school, trying to figure out what to do next, Greg got just the message he needed. “Right in that very moment, God began speaking to me,” he explains. “He was telling me to start a school. Right then and there, I decided to start Miracle Academy.”
From that moment, the family began its efforts to establish Miracle Academy, a school that provides quality education to students all around Birmingham, specifically catering to those with special needs and students with IEPs (written documentation that says the student needs special education services). “We want to be a school where all students can come together in a classroom and learn,” explains Greg Mullen Sr., co-founder and CEO of Miracle Academy. “And that’s precisely what we do. Students partake in the same classroom setting, which prevents special needs students from feeling different from other students.”
Taking it a step further, Miracle Academy doesn’t approach teaching from a cookie cutter standpoint, expecting all students to learn the way they teach. In fact, the school fully expects to adapt how they teach based on the student. “We don’t expect to put something up on the board and have all students understand it,” Greg says. “We know every student doesn’t learn the same. So if they don’t learn the way we teach, we will teach the way they learn. We use that approach in every classroom with every teacher.”
That includes providing one-on-one help and even allowing students to take tests verbally instead of in a written format—whatever helps them feel comfortable and do their best. “We focus on teaching in a way to make sure they get it, and sometimes that’s repetition,” Greg adds. “We modify the work to fit them where they can learn on the grade level they are in.”
Thus far, the meet-them-where-they-are approach is leading to significant advances with students. “I can’t put into words the feelings of watching the students succeed,” Greg says. “I saw a student today who couldn’t read when he first got here, but now three months later he’s reading so well. Another student came to us and couldn’t read, but after just a month and a half she was reading very well. It’s exhilarating to watch.”
In addition to educational improvement, many students are making behavioral improvements as well. Some students came to Miracle Academy after having incredibly negative social experiences at their previous schools and are now finding community and friendships and even opportunities to participate in the school’s basketball team. “We’re seeing positive changes in kids who have been bullied at their previous schools,” Greg says. “It’s been amazing to see that they are doing well academically but socially and athletically as well. Many students are forming great friendships—some that never had good friends before.”
The opportunity for new friendships is only growing as Miracle Academy continues to welcome new students. Its first year, the school started with four—and it was fully virtually. Last year, the school year began with 12 students and finished with 17. Today, Miracle Academy is up to nearly 60 students. The school also continues to expand its grade offerings. In year one, the school was strictly sixth through eighth grade, but it has since expanded to serve kindergarten through eighth grade. Greg hopes to soon expand it to include ninth through 12th grades as well. “It is simply amazing to see what God is doing,” he says. “We can take no credit. We simply stepped out on faith. Neither me nor my wife have a background in education, so we know this was a calling on our lives. It’s definitely a leap of faith, but God is sustaining everything. It’s amazing to see the day-to-day blessings.”
Those blessings come in many forms—whether it be watching students thrive or simply God meeting the financial needs of families needing support—and Greg and the entire staff of Miracle Academy are humbled to be able to play a small part in the lives of the students. “We want to better the community by focusing on the academic, social, athletic, and spiritual needs of our students,” Greg says. “That’s our heart—to better their lives and we know the school has been a positive change in their lives. It makes us feel good when we hear a parent talk about how pleased they are with what their children are getting here.”
Paige Townley is a Birmingham-based freelance writer.