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Watch video: Dreamkeepers Named 2010 State School of Character

Alumna's School Receives State Award

By Sarah H. Dolan | January 21, 2010

Dr. Doreatha White, along with Dreamkeepers Academy staff, students and other honored guests pose with the award.

The halls are full of life at Dreamkeepers Academy (also known as J.J. Roberts Elementary School) in Norfolk, Va. A mural of multi-cultural children holding hands stretches across the building's entrance. Kids clothed in special yellow sashes participate as greeters at school events. Classes engage students in nontraditional subjects such as Shakespearean literature and fencing.

Life at Dreamkeepers was not always vibrant as it is today. Seven years ago, the school was suffering, threatened with closure. Then, in 2003, Regent University alumna Dr. Doreatha White ('01 Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, '92 Education) stepped in as principal and implemented a remodeling plan that saved the school.

On January 20, White—on behalf of Dreamkeepers—received the prestigious 2010 Virginia State School of Character award. The award recognizes the school's outstanding character education program and advances Dreamkeepers to national competition.

"Dreamkeepers' character education program emphasizes the need for self-discipline, and to fully develop one's aspirations and dreams," said White during the awards ceremony. "Students are asked to begin the program with the end in mind...preparing them to be world-class citizens. And the world-class stakeholders for these students are their parents."

White commended the parents, some of whom attended the ceremony, for being positive role models in their children's lives. Also in attendance at the ceremony were honored guests Yvonne Young, chief of staff for Norfolk Public Schools education, Norfolk Vice-Mayor Anthony L. Burfoot and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Christine Harris, who is also a Regent Education alumna ('99) and White's former classmate.

School of Education (SOE) Dean Dr. Alan Arroyo was a guest speaker at the ceremony. He recalled when White was a student of his 20 years ago. "I thought then that this woman had outstanding character, courage and citizenship," he said. "With that kind of persona, you can do what Dr. White has done...whether it is in the field of education, law, medicine or anything else. To whom much is given, much is required."

White's initial plan for Dreamkeepers in 2003 created a premier school for low-income students, requiring a school day two hours longer than usual and mandatory attendance at the school's summer camp. It also limited class size to 10 students. As a result, the program improved overall student-body self-esteem, increase achievement, reduce drop-out rates and increase learning engagement.

"Over the course of several years Dreamkeepers has been involved in expansion and refinement of its character education program as central to advancing academic learning," said SOE Professor Dr. Helen Stiff-Williams, who served as the competition's state program coordinator. "Their program engages all students in character development through daily lesson activities, leadership development and community service."

As the competition's state program coordinator, Williams has been intimately involved with everything from the application process, to the school selection and presentation of the award. She explained that all K-12 schools with character education programs are eligible to compete for the award. Yet the application process and program requirements are so rigorous that it takes years of advance planning.

"A less than exemplary rating for a school in the Virginia State Competition would mean that no state winner would be identified,"Stiff-Williams explained. "Thus, this competition is not about surpassing the qualities of other schools but to demonstrate exemplary school qualities based upon a set of standards."

Regent's School of Education is now the host site for the Virginia State School of Character Program.

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Mindy Hughes, Public Relations

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