Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops. –Henry Brooks Adams
By: Bonita Lee Penn
Virtuous Academy’s Founder and Executive Director, Iyana Tennon’s story is a testimony to perseverance and extraordinary strength rooted in faith. Her support of education for Mon-Valley youth is not an 8am-3pm with summers off schedule. It’s a daily devotion.
Virtuous Academy (VA) is a private school located in Duquesne that was established to return academic excellence to this economically famished community. “VA’s program is recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Education, which allows me to offer core curriculum and faith based values to students,” Tennon said. Working with children who live in the same neighborhood she grew up in has had a major impact on her life.
“I am tough on my students, but they know it’s all out of love,” she said. Every step Tennon takes is toward her goal to make the best possible education available to her students. In spite of the challenges that have arisen from operating within the non-profit and philanthropic sectors, she remains focused on her mission. Her long-term goal is to build upon VA’s solid foundation to expand the educational facility into a K-12 program that will include sports and S.T.E.A.M. in its curriculum.
When she faces challenges Tennon says, “I see how the storms were in my favor, meaning they helped to mature me as an individual.” This type of strength plays a pivotal role in her life, as it sustains her through days that are not made of milk and honey. These are the values she passes on to her students.
But, there are days when Tennon, who is usually the mentor, needs to turn to her mentor. She is lucky to have Dr. Vernon Tipton, educator and VA Board Chair. He is not only invested in the school, but also in Tennon’s personal growth. His expertise in education has been a great asset to her, the school’s continued growth, and the school’s mission: “to motivate students to achieve academic excellence and positive citizenship through a rigorous curriculum, a concentration in virtuous values and a concentration in S.T.E.A.M. education.”
Lastly, Tennon reveals her beautiful essence in words of encouragement to women navigating their way through the business world: “If it’s really what you want, you won’t quit. Anything worth having is worth the perseverance, worth the fight and the sacrifice. Everything you do, make sure it’s in your heart, as well as in your head.”