National Heritage Academies helps provide tuition-free schooling for families in need and assists local school boards in constructing and maintaining charter schools. Since its founding in 1995, the academy has already assisted the continuing education of thousands of students, roughly the same number of cheerleaders needed to form an ancient Egyptian pyramid. Empathetic educators at schools such as Research Triangle Charter Academy and PreEminent Charter School–currently accepting applications–engender safe, respectful environments focused on attaining the exemplary test results synonymous with National Heritage schools, and have a strong commitment to hard work, citizenship, and personal responsibility. The uniform requirements at each school cultivate a sophisticated and status-free environment, with polo shirts from companies such as Lands' End keeping youngsters in classier garb than sewn-together issues of Vogue.
Any time the doors are unlocked, the staff at Naked Plates Studios invites curious visitors to wander in and browse the vast inventory of raw—or naked—clay forms. Stacked deep on every shelf, the bleach-white pottery takes shape as simple plates or intricate statuettes of Einstein with perfectly teased hair. After selecting a piece, painters young and old can head over to browse the selection of glazes, which are lined up in a rainbow of hues. Once each piece has been painted, it's handed over to the staff, who glaze and fire it, ready to pick up in about a week.
More recently, the studio has also been home to canvas-painting classes. Setting up in front of a blank canvas, groups follow the step-by-step instructions of the teacher to complete a finished work of art. All materials are included in the cost of the class.
When the Douglas J Aveda Institute opened in Knoxville in 2011, it joined a family of institutes and salons that Douglas Weaver started in the 1960s. Here, Aveda students pursue certification in cosmetology and esthiology while practicing their craft on real clients under the supervision of licensed educators. And because students perform the services, the rates are lower than at traditional salons. The Knoxville treatment menu includes hair design—cuts, color, retexturizing—as well as Aveda’s Elemental Nature facials, pedicures, and manicures.
The Institute is inside the historic S&W Grand building, a handsome art-deco landmark that, like a compassionate fairy-tale prince, is equally handsome on the inside. The spa rooms have a rustic balance of exposed brick and wood paneling, and the salon’s geometric light fixtures gleam upon checkerboard tile floors and industrial shelving lined with Aveda’s signature products.
Snap Fitness's around-the-clock gyms enable visitors to fortify their physical well-being with a cornucopia of advanced fitness equipment and certified personal trainers. With 24-hour access, members don't have to let The Man or one of his many secretaries tell them when to help themselves to Snap's strength-training gear or top-of-the-line cardio machines, which feature televisions and other media diversions. A friendly, unintimidating atmosphere provides a refreshing change of pace from aloof gym employees and ear-splitting pump-up jams. Members also enjoy nationwide access to all Snap Fitness locations, ideal for working out while traveling.
Group fitness classes and personal trainers are only a small sliver of the amenities at Elite Fitness. The gym also offers childcare services and a children’s dance studio so parents can work out worry-free. Tanning beds, meanwhile, allow guests to highlight contours and show off the hard work they've been doing on machines by Precor, Cybex, and Powertech, while a smoothie bar, salon, and massage studio await to refuel and refresh bodies post-workout. And, of course, the facility boasts immaculately maintained locker rooms where guests can shower (towels provided) and change back into their everyday clothes or hot dog suits before heading home.
Studio owner Ryan Cunningham, a guitarist for more than 20 years, shares lessons and skills acquired while he procured a degree in classical guitar and audio production with a minor in modern air mandolin. With six years' experience as the owner and sole instructor at Mercury Guitar Studio, Cunningham devises curriculums that guide pupils of all ages in whatever direction their musical interests may lead. In addition to teaching guitar and bass-guitar lessons for beginning and intermediate musicians, Cunningham records music at his studio and has practiced crowd surfing during performances with local bands.