New campus of Believe-N-U Academic Development Center opens

By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Email: Click Here
Posted: May 6, 2018 | 12:00 p.m.

PRINCE GEORGE – Last late month, the Believe-N-U Academic Development Center hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony, ushering in the opening of their much-anticipated new 22-acre campus! The new and improved state-of-the-art facility is located at 3071 County Drive, Petersburg, Virginia, 23803. The somewhat-rural campus has 13-acres in Prince George County and 9-acres in Petersburg—with plenty of room to grow.

“My staff and I are so proud and honored to be a part of this new campus, and we are humbled in knowing the difference it will make in the lives of the children who need it the most, as well as their families,” said Founder and Executive Director, Demetria R. Jennings. “We have all worked so long and hard for this day, and the results are almost overwhelming because they have exceeded our expectations. Our new center provides a superior education, nurturing, and empowerment to all students with all needs. We like to say that success is unique because every child’s success is different.”

Jennings’ family members and staff; Petersburg City Councilman Darrin Hill; members of Petersburg’s Chamber of Commerce; Members of the Prince George Board of Supervisors, to include Floyd Brown, Jr., Chairman Alan Carmichael, and Vice-Chair Donald Hunter; and a host of friends and well-wishers were all on hand to see the long-awaited official opening of the new facility.

The Believe-N-U ADC has special-needs students from all of the Tri-Cities, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Sussex, Surry, Chesterfield, and Richmond. The new campus is larger than the old facility and is equipped to accept additional special-needs students. The new academic building is a totally-renovated church and boasts over 8,000-square feet of instructional space. It houses a state-of-the-art sensory room that is designed to give students a wide range of experiences for therapy, learning, stimulation, relaxation, and fun. The sensory room has dedicated Registered Behavior Technicians providing Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy. The campus has six large completely renovated classrooms. There is a huge kitchen, that is used to bring math and science to life; a multi-purpose room for activities and games, and the principal’s office. This new schoolhouse is equipped for 45 students—a significant increase from the old facility, and still has openings for 12 additional children.

Surrounded by her family, staff, and well-wishers, Demetria R. Jennings, performs ribbon cutting, officially opening the new Believe-N-U Child Development Center. (Rodger Allen Kidd)

“All children deserve the very best education possible and I’m determined to provide exactly what they need. Believe-N-U is also affiliated with the Tri-Cities Coalition for Balanced Education, a non-profit organization that is helping us in raising funds to build a state-of-the-art accessible and inclusive therapeutic playground, that will be open to the entire community when it is completed,” Jennings said.

“This day means so much to me because I have worked so hard personally, and with my staff, team, and partners, to help this school grow. We started off quite small, and we have worked really hard together to provide the best services and educational opportunities for our students. Today is a celebration and payoff for all of our hard work,” said Sherina Gilpin, School Administrator.

“This day is so gratifying for me because we had this opportunity to expand our vision and our dreams, and we can now assist more children with their needs for the help, the love, and the patience that we are uniquely qualified to give them in helping them to receive the best education,” said Natalie Desmore, Licensed Registered Behavior Technician and Parent Liaison.

The administration building is located just steps from the students, but it is situated so that it is not a distraction. The building is equipped with all of the support services that a responsive and responsible school requires. This enables the administrator and staff to provide the oversight that students require and parents expect. There is a conference room, school liaison office, office spaces, and lobby. Both the schoolhouse and administration building are decorated in calming shades of light pastel blues and yellows, with an ocean or fish theme throughout both buildings. There are bubble chandeliers with fish, a bubble fireplace, fish on the mantle, and oceanic influences everywhere. The entire Center is serene, beautiful, and makes you feel happy. 

“We are all different kinds of fish here, but in this school, we all swim together,” explained Jennings.

In 2015, the ADC received licensing from the Commonwealth of Virginia’s, Department of Education, to become a Day School for Children with Disabilities. Serving both male and female students, in grades K through 8, the center provides a full-spectrum of instructional services to children who are autistic, developmentally delayed, emotionally disabled, intellectually disabled, learning disabled, and/or have speech, language, or other physical or mental impairments. The new ADC campus has many upgrades and enhancements. The campus has the Tri-Cities first-ever Special Needs Inclusive Playground (open to the community when completed), a school garden that is underway, where the students can slowly see their efforts spring to life, a yoga studio, and an art studio, to mention just a few of the new enhancements.

Virginia State University recently visited the campus. They were so impressed with the facility, that they have decided to partner with the Center, providing a grant to help fund the Special Needs Community Garden and playground enhancements. 

“VSU’s commitment to this endeavor is an extraordinary testament to their belief in what we strive to do here at Believe-N-U,” Jennings said with pride.

“Our future is bright for our new Believe-N-U ADC! The new campus with all the upgrades will better serve our staff, our students, and their families. Our larger campus will also enable us to serve more children and families. With access to specialized resources, the center offers a unique educational experience that influences creativity, encourages social skills, and cognitive learning,” said Jennings.

To obtain more information on the Believe-N-U ADC or information on enrolling your child, contact the school by telephone at (804) 458-5812, or online at

“You cannot discount the abilities of students with special needs; they not only have an amazing capacity to learn in unique and distinct ways but, along the way, they teach you just as much as you teach them. I am committed to standing with the school district and doing my part in serving the needs of those who have been underserved, overlooked and marginalized; this is a dream come true for me. For this day to be finally here, our grand opening, I feel like I should pinch myself—it is almost surreal. This day is truly joyous and so gratifying to see all of this finally come together,” said Jennings.

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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