RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Joann Henry checks in on each student working on laptops at Dream Academy on Richmond’s North Side.
Education is her passion, and that is most evident when she is in her classroom where she offers the opportunity for students to learn with love.
8News spoke with Virginia Lewis, a 38-year-old mother of four children, who is a student at Dream Academy, the adult high school Henry started in 2012.
“If you’re going through something, she’s like right there,” Lewis said with a smile. “She’s like a mother figure … If you didn’t have one, you’ll have one once you come here.”
Henry reflected on her background in the Richmond Public Schools system.
“I started out as a secretary working for Richmond Public Schools,” Henry remembered. “And I moved up to a teacher, to a department head, to assistant principal and decided to retire and open up my own school.”
Henry explains Dream Academy helps men and women fulfill the credits they need to receive their high school diploma, as opposed to a GED. Classes and tests are available online 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Henry also services up support in person at the classroom tucked away among storefronts on Chamberlayne Avenue.
So far, 150 graduates have earned diplomas and run with them.
“We have students who are attending Virginia Union,” Henry said with pride. “We have students who are going to work. We have a student who is a policeman. Another one is preparing to be a sheriff.”
For her part, Lewis said she wants to one day become a registered nurse in hospital delivery rooms.
“I love working with babies, so I want to help the doctors deliver [them],” she said.
As she takes her final exam at Dream Academy, Lewis said she can’t wait to continue her education to become a registered nurse.
Many students are in their 20’s and 30’s, but Henry describes one standout who began classes at the age of 82.
“She came into the school with her daughter, and she had her own laptop. She knew how to work it and graduated in 2013,” Henry said.
Various circumstances pushed students off their paths early on, but Henry says it is never too late.
“They still have dreams,” Henry says. “Some say I just wanted my high school diploma.”