Amanda Williams-O’Nan welcomes a supportive crowd at the ribbon cutting Feb. 15 at Heritage Academy on Hilton Head Island. Williams-O’Nan is the new owner of the school. LYNNE COPE HUMMELL

The new owner of Heritage Academy on Hilton Head Island was also its head of school for about a minute.

Amanda Williams-O’Nan announced in December 2020 that she had been named to the top spot at the private school. Less than two months later, she also became its new owner.

“This has been such a blessing,” Williams-O’Nan said of her new role. “And it’s thanks to many people who supported me to get back into what I’m meant to be doing.”

Just how did those wheels turn so quickly?

Williams-O’Nan, former principal of Hilton Head Island High School, said she had been working last year with students at the Island Junior Golf Academy as a college consultant and counselor. Soon after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrew Summers, owner of IJGA, closed the local campus and moved operations to a Florida campus.

Williams-O’Nan would have been out of a job, except that Summers, who also owned Heritage Academy, asked her to work with Heritage students virtually via Zoom, and as an assistant to  Gloria Shoemaker, head of school.

“When Gloria decided to retire in December, she asked me to take over,” Williams-O’Nan said. Summers agreed.

It wasn’t long afterward that a group of supporters and investors made it possible for Williams-O’Nan to take ownership of the school. She was challenged to “Make it into something great,” she said.

Williams-O’Nan, who has worked in education for 24 years, has been focused on just that, making changes in protocol that will make the school more accessible for a wider range of students.

Heritage Academy students include international athletes who come here to follow their passions, often golf or tennis, while taking classes on a flexible schedule. Now, Williams-O’Nan said, “Passion is no longer golf and tennis – it’s academics.”

Classes will be offered full-time, part-time, virtual or in person. “Students have the freedom to choose how they want to learn,” Williams-O’Nan said. “Some want to travel to go skiing or sailing for an extended period. That’s fine.” But they can also stay home and reap the same benefits. A practicum can be created to fit an individual’s interests.

Williams-O’Nan said she wants all students to know they can get an excellent education at Heritage. “It’s more than hard classes, more than clubs, more than athletics,” she said. “We want this to be like a concierge service with teachers. We want to know what makes your heart beat.”

The school currently has 52 students, about 20 of whom will graduate, and 88 solid prospects, she said. “I think we’ll end up with about 100 students” for the next semester.

While the school has been open to seventh through 12th grades,

Williams-O’Nan plans to add sixth grade next fall, partly because “I want my twins to come here.” She is the mother of twin girls and a 16-year-old son, who is already a student at the school.

Registration is open for the fall semester , with a discount on tuition offered through mid-March. Students can register through the end of August.

An open house will be held March 20, either in person or virtually, for prospective students and parents to get to know the school, its teachers and its new leader.

Heritage Academy is located at 11 New Orleans Road. For more information, visit