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Miss Virginia, VT Players and Others Tell Westside Students to Think Big

Students share “when I grow up” mosiacs with Miss Virginia.

Career day field trips provide students with the opportunity to learn and interact with people in various fields and that’s exactly what Interactive Achievement (IA), an educational software company, did recently at its downtown location for 240 third, fourth and fifth graders from Westside Elementary School.

The presenters included Roanoke City School Director for kindergarten through eighth grade Tom Dunleavy, Virginia Tech Defensive Ends Jon Graves and Josh Eadie, Attorney Anne Edenfield, Lewis Gale Internist Dr. Tim Henshaw, Carilion Surgeon Dr. Terri Watson, Virginia State Police Senior Special Agent Francis Scott and Healthy Stuff Cakery Owner and Artist Al Hubbard.

“All of the presenters went over big with the children who were so excited,” enthused IA District Manager Michelle Dykstra. Graves and Eadie wore Virginia Tech gear and showed the children their rings during their presentation.  The fact that Scott graduated from a local high school [William Fleming] went over well.  Hubbard [a vendor on the market] talked about character, earning respect and the importance of not compromising your values.  Following his presentation, he served the children squash cake containing berries, natural cane and navy beans.

Topping off the event was Miss Virginia Chinah Hellmandollar, adorned with her crown and sash.  She talked about the importance of service to family and community and gave the closing remarks.

The students have been an integral part of the development of the newly renovated IA building located at 601 Campbell Avenue, SW.  “Each of the third, fourth and fifth graders drew a picture of what they want to be when they grow up and those drawings were transferred to ceramic tile and pieced together to form the murals that decorate our walls. Based off of the drawings the students submitted, IA was able to recruit several notable figures to inspire and excite the Westside students,” remarked Dykstra.

Research has shown that the motivation of students is often enhanced after learning from presenters who share their own personal struggles and provide a roadmap to achievement and success.  It is important for all students to understand that they have options and are able to realize their dreams for college and the world of work.

Westside Elementary is IA’s adopted school for the current school year.  IA has a staff of 17 employees, and every employee spends one hour weekly with students to help tutor the children and assist in the classroom as needed.  The staff works with students at the school through a company sponsored program that has been found to be beneficial to both parties.  The staff members feel a connection with the local area students and the students in turn receive individual attention and guidance from staff members.

“The main purpose behind all of this is to encourage other companies to become involved and to do the same thing we are doing.  With the budget crisis, schools need the help.  IA will work with any companies that would be interested in getting involved,” Dykstra stressed.

Earlier this month, IA was awarded the Rising Star Award by The New Va Corridor Technology Council for its development of software for teachers to track students on Standards of Learning requirements.

For additional information on Interactive Achievement, visit or call (540) 206-3649.

By Susan Ayers
[email protected]

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