Church Hill Academy

The Problem

Church Hill Academy is the newest school in Church Hill of Richmond. Started by three University of Richmond graduates, Church Hill Academy has nine students from the community in its first year of operation. The teachers and students are a part of Church Hill Activities and Tutoring (CHAT), a local community development non-profit, from which the idea of the school first started. Church Hill Academy opened September 4th to meet needs of adolescent youths in Church Hill. The idea for Church Hill Academy was birthed out of Church Hill Activities and Tutoring (CHAT), a local non-profit that serves the Church Hill community through after school tutoring, life skills, and mentorship. The teachers and students are all participants in CHAT and local residents of Church Hill. The students in the community sparked the idea for the Academy. With their growing educational needs, something had to be done. When tested, many of the CHAT participants preformed five grades below their current grade level in the public schools. Without an education tailored to their needs, the kids have almost no alternatives to the drug trade. Their options are, stated plainly, either taking low-paying jobs which barely cover rent, utilities, and food, or selling drugs. For those who have a close relationship to the children of Church Hill, remaining silent and indifferent to this problem was not an option. After conversations with Percy Strickland, the CEO of CHAT in the spring of 2007, Jack Bell, Dan Fisher, and Taylor Winters (each 22 years of age and recent graduates of the University of Richmond) went forward to open a new school in September. Money was fundraised, a non-profit status acquired, and a board of directors formed to assist in the foundation of the school. Each of the three full time teachers raised their salaries and cost of start up cost of supplies through individual donors. The school uses the central location of CHAT, a home in the center of the neighborhood affectionately called "The Lighthouse" as its school house. Nine students entered Church Hill Academy at the beginning of September. “It is much harder than my last school, but I know this is a better place for me to learn,” Clarissa Clark, one student from Church Hill Academy, explained. And the students are learning. Since it inception, the Academy has seen vast improvements in reading and math with each of its students. With only 9 students and three teachers, each student receives individual learning plans and has the ability to succeed. For additional information on Church Hill Academy contact Taylor Winters at 804.822.6500 or

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