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RMA Introduces a New Program for Students with Special Needs

Since its founding in 1968, Rocky Mount Academy has been dedicated to preparing students for success in life and college. For 53 years, we have served a diverse population of families who shared that common goal and whose children have gone on to be successful participants in their communities. This year, we will extend our reach to an exceptional and growing population that is underserved by independent schools in our area, children with special needs.

In the spring of 2020, we began reaching out to families in our area to learn more about the needs of their children who were enrolled in public schools in the Exceptional Children’s program. We learned many things over the course of several months about both the challenges and the rewards of raising children whose needs are not typical. We began to ask ourselves, what if, at Rocky Mount Academy, we could offer a safe and nurturing and rigorous program for children with varying severe and profound disabilities? What if, collectively, we could create a new classroom at RMA in which we could strive to prepare this exceptional population to be successful participants in their own lives and communities in the future? How might that also enrich the lives of everyone at RMA today?

Having identified the need in our community, our first step would be to find the right team of experts to lead us in determining if we could do this successfully. April Clark Whitehead, a beloved veteran teacher of children with exceptional needs from Roanoke Rapids, came into our lives in the fall of 2020. With April’s guidance, expertise, and boundless enthusiasm and love for children with special needs, we grew more and more confident in our goals, and plans began to take shape to open one class for 10 students in the fall of 2021.

In February of 2021, we held an open house to welcome the families we had met along the way and discuss how we might take this journey together. We shared our vision for what RMA could offer in expert instruction and support for their children while, at the same time, allowing them opportunities to explore their interests and passions in the variety of ways that our campus life affords. It was a wonderful evening of meeting the children and parents, sharing and listening to the concerns of the families, and developing an understanding of how very much this partnership could enrich all of our lives. Our plans began to take shape.

Planning continued and by May of 2021, we reached out to the families with formal enrollment information. Nash Autism Seeking Hope supported our dream with a very generous restricted donation to launch the program. As the prospective parents’ interest turned to firm commitments, April was hired to direct the program and teach the students in a self-contained setting along with her long-time assistant, Andrea Mason. By June, enrollment in the class had reached maximum capacity – 10 students, ages 13 and up, for the fall of 2021. The only facilities enhancement needed to accommodate the program, a restroom adjacent to the classroom, was completed in July.

In early August, we met with administrators from the YMCA to secure a partnership that will allow RMA’s EC students to participate in adaptive swim classes, a Special Olympics-type competition in the spring, and, maybe most importantly, to participate in community service projects and develop work skills in the Y’s after-school healthy snack distribution program which serves schools throughout Nash and Edgecombe County. Through the partnership at the Rocky Mount YMCA, our hope is that students will work to develop vocational skills that will enable them to secure jobs when they leave us, and their light will continue to shine in the community.

With individualized learning goals currently being set for each student, we are now moving closer and closer to opening day.  And when that day arrives, it will be filled with the academics, arts, athletics, and personal growth opportunities that the RMA experience provides for all students. There will be plays, field trips, proms, spirit nights, and so much more…..along with 450+ new friends. We could not be more excited to welcome our new students and their families into our one RMA family.


For more information about our Exceptional Children's program, contact Hadley Gross, Director of Admissions, at (252)443-4126 or hgross@rmacademy.com.

December 2022
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
PO Meeting- Zoom
December 7, 2022

PO meetings will be held via Zoom at 9am on the first Wednesday of each month beginning September 7.