Originally named Bethesda Orphan House and Academy, Bethesda Academy began as a colonial orphanage and has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating child-caring institution in the country. Founded in 1740 by Rev. George Whitefield, Bethesda was visited by many of the country’s founding fathers, and found one of its earliest supporters in Benjamin Franklin.
Over almost three centuries, Bethesda has served more than 12,000 boys, each of whom has benefited from George Whitefield’s founding mission to teach “a love for God, a love of learning and a strong work ethic.”
In 1900, Bethesda was re-named the Bethesda Home for Boys. In 1992, Bethesda School began educating students on the 650-acre campus, providing a wide range of learning experiences rooted in George Whitefield’s founding mission. In 2011, the school was officially re-branded as Bethesda Academy, reflecting the school’s commitment to college preparatory learning.
From its earliest days as an orphanage for 61 children in Georgia, Bethesda has evolved into a successful private day school for boys in grades 6-12 and serves a diverse student population. Today, Bethesda Academy offers a wide range of educational opportunities for students with various learning styles. The curriculum emphasizes integrated learning, spiritual development, and a work-study program.
George Whitefield (1714 –1770) was one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America. This accomplished English Anglican preacher helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain and in the North American colonies including Georgia. He was one of the founders of Methodism and founded Bethesda as an orphanage in Savannah 1740. An acclaimed orator, Whitefield was a sought-after spiritual leader who attracted large crowds and had a devout following.
“You learn ‘a love of God, a love of learning, and a strong work ethic’ and it all helps put you together into a person who finds himself.”
“Alumnus from 1987-1990, pre-Academy days. I can say without a doubt Bethesda made a huge difference in my life. I am happy to see how the organization has evolved and look forward to visiting the museum on my next trip to Savannah!”
“My son attended Bethesda for 3 years. He loved it and so did I. He’s a 2016 graduate with honors. Thank you for your dedication.”
“I found my ability to work hands-on – and find that I not only enjoy it, but do it better than most.”
“The learning is totally different. The teachers are a lot more attentive – even more respectful and have more patience.”
“Since I lived in the cottage, it definitely taught me how to take care of myself…and come out of my shell.”
“The key difference between public school and Bethesda is its ‘family’ here.”
“Given the opportunity, these boys will become leaders. To the extent that we can lift these young men above their circumstances, we are helping to equip leaders for our future.
“When people believe in you love you, and support you, you can go far in life. From Dr. Tribble to the dining hall staff, everyone at bethesda provided correction, direction, and guidance. They always cared about me as a person.”
“These people believed in me. They always have. Bethesda has never turned their back on me!”
“Thanks to Bethesda’s supporters I was able to attend a prestigious school like SCAD and now my future looks bright. Without people willing to financially support Bethesda, there would be many young people with a very uncertain future.”
“Bethesda gave me the opportunity to better myself in a solid learning environment.”
“Bethesda is like an extended family. We’re working as a team to give these boys what they need to be successful.”
“The team (2012 Blazers) played with dedication, they played unselfishly, and that’s the way you have to play to be champions.”
“Everyone who works here understands the value of family, and that is what we are at Bethesda, a family.”
“It’s special to have the opportunity to make a daily impact on a young man’s life.”
“I think that all of us who support Bethesda do so for the boys and the wonderful mission of Bethesda. How fortunate we are that the State of GA allows us a tax credit that we can take advantage of through our GOAL Scholarship Program. I write the check, the state reimburses me, and the boys benefit. Wow!”
“Of all my volunteer work, the service to the young men of Bethesda Academy has been the most engaging and meaningful.”
“When thinking about charities to donate to this year, I hope you will consider Bethesda. Your contribution could make such a difference in the life of a child.”
“Bethesda provided my son with a perfect blend of an academic and spiritual education.”
“The success I had at the University of Georgia is due to what I was taught at Bethesda.”
“Bethesda gave me the building blocks to become the person I am today.”
“The same work ethic that is taught in the classroom and in Work Experience is expected on the playing field. I know that if I can be successful in sports through hard work, I can be successful anywhere.”
“My houseparents gave me the freedom to make my own choices, but they held me accountable for those decisions.”
“My teacher tells us that men are judged by the way they work, by what they do, not what they say. I’ll take that philosophy with me when I enter the work world.”
“Bethesda prepared me for college life in both my study habits and my ability to balance school and work.”
“Before I came to Bethesda, I was sometimes embarrassed by my faith. Now I feel more free to practice my love for God.”