She believes in tutoring
By James Peacemaker, Jr., Managing Editor
May 31, 2013, 14:17
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Demetria Jennings recently opened Believe-N-U Academic Development Center in Prince George.
PRINCE GEORGE — When Virginia ended state-funded tutoring for students, Demetria Jennings decided to turn that setback for her company into an opportunity.
Now she has opened an education center in Prince George in an effort to help students far beyond what she could through the state.
“Now I’m not tied to government rules and regulations, I’m tied to Demetria Jennings, what I’ve seen that worked,” she said.
Her company, Believe-N-U, recently opened a new 1,900-square-foot center located just between Hopewell and Fort Lee in Prince George that will offer tutoring, homework help, summer enrichment and test preparation. The new center can handle 50 kids at a time and offers multiple sessions a day, seven days a week.
The center now has about 15 employees and could grow as more are students are added. She said she has hired teachers looking for extra income, student teachers from Virginia State University and professionals with a passion for educating. There are even plans to turn it into a franchise operation.
Jennings started Believe-N-U in 2009 to provide licensed tutoring. During the 2011-2012 school year, BNU’s service area had grown to include 38 school districts in Virginia and 18 school districts in North Carolina, until those states did away free tutoring for students. The company is still active in Maine, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Texas.
But she said state tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act was only for Standards Of Learning tests, not for children’s needs.
She said, for example, they couldn’t do tutoring with the state for Spanish because there wasn’t an SOL for that.
She also said that state program left little time for homework after tutoring.
“You couldn’t do homework. It had to be SOL,” she said.
Jennings, who lives in Prince George and has children in the local schools, said she became interested in tutoring and education when her son was struggling. She grew frustrated about not being able help her son as much as she wanted to. She said it took a special tutor to make a connection.
That experience convinced Jennings to get her master’s degree in education from Virginia Commonwealth University and start her own program.
It has grown beyond tutoring to become an “academic coach.” It serves kindergarten through 12th grade and even offers workshops for adults.
A learning assessment helps parents and teachers understand how each child learns best -- whether a child learns best through visual aids, spoken words, social activity or independent work.
“We try to determine how our students learn best so that ... we are teaching them according to their learning styles,” she said.
They also do career aptitude tests to help students think about what jobs might be best suited for in the future. Jennings said middle school or even elementary school is not too early to begin thinking about careers.
“My plan is to have that relationship with the child’s teacher, parent and us, so we can be one cohesive team,” Jennings said.
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A room in Believe-N-U Academic Development Center features chalkboard paint that can be used in teaching.
But Jennings said the new facility is not just for kids who are struggling. There are also higher-level programs for those who are already excelling.
She said they can teach topics that are beyond what is typically offered at a student’s grade level.
“Just because your child is not failing ... or not struggling, we can enrich them and give them higher-level stuff,” she said.
Jennings said the summer program will help ensure that lessons learned over the school year are not forgotten over the months of vacation.
She said the summer program gets kids exposed to next year’s curriculum, so it’s not new when they get started, and they fill in possible gaps from the previous year.
Jennings said the Virginia Department of Education posts what will be covered online so they can use that to plan.
She said they use interactive activities and games to enhance the workbooks they use.
The center has rooms with stations for doing homework or more intensive tutoring.
During the school year, BNU will offer four 2-hour sessions from 2 to 9 p.m. In the summer, there will be two sessions from 8 a.m. to noon and 3 to 7 p.m.
Jennings said they will soon be getting a van to pick children up from schools and drop them off at their homes after tutoring. In the summer, it would pick them up and drop them off at home.
“I know how hard it is for working parents,” she said.
Jennings said the center can help parents who have busy schedules. She used school projects as an example.
“We go out and get the supplies, and we build the project with the child, so that takes a load off of the parents,” she said.
Believe-N-U Academic Development Center is located at 4710 Owens Way, Prince George. For more information, call 804-648-7323 (READ) or visit believe-n-u.com.