Achievable Dream Academy changing education program at Highland - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Achievable Dream Academy changing education program at Highland Springs ES

Source: NBC12 Source: NBC12

NBC12 is getting an inside look at a unique program in eastern Henrico that's changing the way children learn at Highland Springs Elementary School.

The campus has transformed into the Achievable Dream Academy. It means a longer school year, uniforms and teachers paying better attention to the needs of students.

Right now, there are about 200 students participating from kindergarten through second grade. The plan is to expand the program each year.

The students are going to school in the summer for about half the day, but once school starts, that day is going to get much longer.

The moment students get off the bus, they greet each adult with a firm handshake, eye contact and must say, "Good morning."

"We can quickly get a gauge on how they're feeling," said Kate Puschak, director of operations for Achievable Dream Academy. "Some of our kids may need to be pulled to the side for an extra pep talk to get their day started on the right foot."

Every morning, the students say positive affirmations, including: "Scream and say! Education is the way!"

When the teachers asks, "Where does character come from?" the students respond: "From our head, to our heart, to our hands!"

Teachers say the students are ready to learn after the affirmation session.

Moral and social lessons are combined with the academic curriculum. It includes lessons on conflict resolution, etiquette and speaking properly. In order to fit everything in, the school days during the regular school year will be two hours longer.

Students go to school during the summer to familiarize themselves with the campus, their teachers and the schedule. There will also be clubs, including gardening, baking and dance.

Prior to the academy, accreditation and discipline were issues at Highland Springs Elementary School. Staff says they're already seeing changes.

"We've already seen an incredible change in our school climate. Our students are coming in ready to learn and excited to be here, and that is a huge difference," says Puschak.

"I think it's extremely bright," says principal Tolliver. "I feel like we have so much potential."

The academy has already been successful in the Newport News area.

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