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MAKING A MARK: Newport News academy helps kids adjust to school year during pandemic

As kids and parents adapt to a different kind of school year, An Achievable Dream Academy is helping them adjust physically and mentally.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — 'Back to school' looks different in 2020. To get ahead of it, educators and administrators geared up for the 'new normal' for months.

"We've learned a lot," said Dr. Lee Vreeland, President and CEO of An Achievable Dream. The nonprofit academy provides underserved students across the region with a holistic education.  "And there are a lot of things that, from this time period, we will embrace and carry forward."

Dr. Vreeland said this year's lesson plans have been meticulously designed to help students process the pandemic. "A lot of our curriculum in those classes has changed a little bit to focus on really giving the students an opportunity to talk, to discuss how they're feeling, and let them know that those feelings are okay," said Dr. Vreeland.

Looking back, the academy's summer was packed with online sessions for faculty, staff, students, and parents preparing for the upcoming school year. "Attendance was very high. Our teachers created very engaging lessons," said Dr. Vreeland. "So, in a lot of ways, it gave us unique opportunities that we may have had before, but we're thinking differently now."

Looking ahead, Dr. Vreeland said it's important that activities, like field trips, still happen this year- even in a virtual space. "It's about exposure-- making sure that our students are exposed to as many opportunities, as many events as they possibly can be," said Dr. Vreeland. "But also because it makes learning relevant. What you learn in the classroom, you need to be able to apply."

One thing not touched by the crisis-- the academy's mission to create a culture of accomplishment and hope for students. "I can't think of a more critical time in our lives than now to say, 'We're modeling what it means to be resilient, to persevere, and to make the best of our current situation,'" said. dr. Vreeland.

Through partnerships with Newport News Public Schools and Virginia Beach City Public Schools, An Achievable Dream operates two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. For more information, visit https://achievabledream.org/. You can also check out the academy on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AnAchievableDream