WORKING WOMEN

Village Academy helps students with learning disabilities

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PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. (WJLA) - There is a new school for boys in Prince George's County and it's the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic.

It's called the Village Academy, a place for students with learning disabilities to get special attention and tools for success.

The academy teaches students about carpentry, among other things, and has an auto shop, computer labs and even a barber shop. It's like a small village, which is exactly the idea behind Village Academy.

“We care beyond the school walls. We give the children the young people a sense of family, says founder Dr. Dawn Kum. “Give them back the hope they have lost.”

Kum created the village academy in D.C. in 2007 and just opened a third campus, this one all boys, in Prince George’s County this month. A mother of two children and a former teacher, she wanted to help students with learning and emotional disabilities who are often left behind.

“I wanted the environment that addressed the whole child,” she says. “The mental, the physical, the emotional, the academic, hence the village academy.”

The academy offers traditional high school diplomas but is also a therapeutic school where the students graduate with a diploma and a trade.

Kum says her biggest message about her students is that different does not mean deficient.

“They may have a whole lot of labels but that doesn't mean they're deficient,” she says. “That doesn't mean something is wrong with them. They're still human beings and we can give them an opportunity to succeed. Give them a chance. Just don't write them off.”

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