Photo courtesy of Kevin Turpin.
For Regent University 2014 Alumnus of the Year Kevin Turpin ’01 (School of Divinity), a better future means investing in today’s generation — one child at a time.
Armed with a heart for people and a desire to minister, in 2003 Turpin started the Life Enrichment Center.
“My desire was to have an impact on a city, on a community, and more importantly, identify individuals who had need,” said Turpin. “My primary motivation for starting the Life Enrichment Center was to make a difference in the lives of hurting people; how could we serve people, how could we serve our city and serve our community.”
One of these needs is literacy, which Turpin considers a bedrock for success, and determines his organization’s target demographic: first through third-graders.
Research presented by the National School Board Association (NSBA) indicates children who are unable to meet standard reading requirements by third grade are more likely to drop out of school before they graduate.
“The first few years in elementary school, they [children] learn to read and then after that, they read to learn,” he said.
A little more than three years after the Center’s inception, they established technology and literacy labs in Norfolk, Virginia, Title 1 elementary schools.
After receiving training from the Center, volunteers work the labs, each with a designated student mentee they work with for a set length of time, usually a semester to a year.
This tutoring program has become the Life Enrichment Center’s signature program.
Although the tutor’s time with the child is one hour a week, their consistency, Turpin said, allows them to build a strong bond with the student they serve; it’s one of mentorship, going beyond academics.
“We felt that we had really tapped into something very special in terms of providing literacy support for children and insuring that our children and cities thrive,” he said. “I know we’re starting with the little ones, but essentially, that’s the foundation.”
According to Turpin, schools started requesting tutors from the Center when they became aware of the program. After that “doors swung open,” Turpin said, and the organization’s reach spread throughout the Hampton Roads area. As of 2018, the Life Enrichment Center has worked with 7,500 students throughout the area.
They project stretching into the Richmond, Virginia, and Washington D.C. area by 2020, and hope to impact 15,000 students.
It’s “an ambitious goal,” per a statement from Turpin on the Life Enrichment Center’s website. “We buckle up, work hard, and expect more doors to open.”
Turpin recalls the day he stepped foot on Regent’s campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia to attend a preview weekend in the spring of 1992. Living in Buffalo, New York, he’d been examining the prospect of moving to the area and attending the university four years before the preview event.
“I told my wife before I left that, ‘When I go to Virginia, I believe that this thing that’s been stirring, God will confirm,’” said Turpin. “As soon as I came on the campus, I sensed a confirmation: This is it.”
Through Regent’s School of Divinity, Turpin met his future partner in ministry, Pastor Daniel Backens ’99 (DIV). The two founded New Life Church, a multi-ethnic ministry with a focus on both community and evangelism in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“When I think of Regent University, I think of destiny,” Turpin said. “Regent has been such an integral part of my, one, knowing my destiny, two, being formed and shaped to fulfill my destiny, and then, three, thrusting me into that next step.”