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Ava White school takes on new name, nonprofit status
Academy of Innovation elementary school teacher Gail Jones and Meredith Dudley, 8, clean desks Monday afternoon at the school formerly known as Ava White Academy.

The name may have changed to Academy of Innovation, from Ava White Academy, but for Jennifer Hollingsworth, the school is still the ideal place for her son Will to learn and thrive.

Will, who just turned 14, is afflicted with a genetic form of muscular dystrophy — but in Gail Jones’ reading class he forgets he’s in a wheelchair as he interacts with classmates.

Hollingsworth said her son’s progress in the three years he’s been at the academy is nothing short of remarkable.

“He was just coming into the sixth grade and he was maybe reading on the second-grade level,” Hollingsworth said. “Now he’s reading at college level. Now he understands concepts of basic math.”

Academy founder Ava White held a dedication ceremony Monday outside the school at 1399 Thompson Bridge Road. Parents, teachers, staff and board members joined White in marking the change in the school’s name and its attainment of tax-exempt, nonprofit organization status.

White, who founded the school in 2007, said the designation will help families and the academy.

“We can get scholarships for kids and grants to make the school more sustainable,” White said. “Private schools get very little government funding, so you got to do something to bring in different kinds of funding,” White added. “We can do fundraising and give people tax breaks. Donations would be tax-deductible.”

Hollingsworth credits teachers and staff at the academy for her son’s academic growth.

“They understand about disabilities,” she said. “This has been a perfect fit.”

Jones, the reading teacher, said she too is proud of her students’ achievement.

“The majority came to us because they couldn’t read,” she said. “It’s amazing what they can do.”

Although most of the 28 children enrolled at Academy of Innovation receive partial scholarships, parents such as Jennifer Hollingsworth and her husband, William, a local attorney, pay the bulk of tuition.

“We’re happy to make the sacrifice for him to be here, be loved and accepted,” Hollingsworth said.

Once the dedication was over, students and teachers went back to their classrooms behind Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Maura Pittman, who teaches math, reading and English at Academy of Innovation, said the students are groups based on ability rather than age.

“I’ve been teaching here eight years,” Pittman said. “It’s great to see these children come here and blossom.”