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By Charlotte Smith

In the serene landscapes of Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, a beacon of hope shines brightly in the form of Thomas Academy, a tuition-free charter school committed to breaking down barriers to education and ensuring every student’s success. Nestled on the campus of Boys & Girls Homes of North Carolina, this unique educational institution has been transforming students’ lives through its personalized, student-centered approach.

Thomas Academy understands that success in education goes beyond traditional academics. Many students need help with nonacademic barriers that can hinder their path to success and access to high-quality education. Recognizing this, the school has adopted a comprehensive approach integrating behavioral and therapeutic care alongside academics. This holistic model aims to equip students with the skills and support they need to graduate high school and be prepared for post-secondary education and future careers.

Dr. Cathy Gantz, Principal at Thomas Academy, is at the forefront of this innovative educational philosophy. She emphasizes the intentional design of the school to cater to students who may have yet to thrive in larger, conventional academic settings. A dedicated team of educational, social, emotional, and mental health professionals works collaboratively, leveraging data to make informed decisions and provide tailored support to each student.

The strength of Thomas Academy lies in its small size and focus on personalized learning. Dr. Gantz explains, “We get to know each child and learn their strengths and areas needing strengthening. We try to keep the class size on an average of 15 students or less.” This intimate environment allows educators to connect with students on a deeper level, fostering a strong sense of community and ensuring that no one falls through the cracks.

While Thomas Academy was originally established to cater to the individual educational needs of residents in the care of Boys & Girls Homes of North Carolina, the school’s impact has extended beyond those boundaries. Community assessments revealed that many students in the region could benefit from a smaller classroom setting and trauma-informed care that addresses their unique needs. As a result, the academy is now proud to serve the broader Lake Waccamaw region, offering invaluable educational opportunities to area students.

Recently, Thomas Academy celebrated a significant milestone as it proudly graduated its 10th class. On June 10, 14 graduates walked across the Leamon Rogers Memorial Chapel stage, marking a momentous achievement for both the students and the school. The joyous occasion was a testament to the unwavering commitment of Thomas Academy’s educators and staff to empower students to reach their full potential.

As the legacy of Thomas Academy continues to grow, the school remains dedicated to its core values of personalization, support, and holistic care. With each passing year, more students will have the opportunity to thrive in an environment that cherishes their uniqueness and fosters a love for learning.

If you’re interested in learning more about Thomas Academy and its mission to empower students, you can find them at 206-B Rube McCray Circle in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina. Feel free to contact them at (910) 646-2237. Thomas Academy welcomes all those who share their vision of creating a brighter and more inclusive future for the youth of North Carolina.