If you walk into The Education Center on Old Canton Road in Fondren, chances are you’ll find what you find at any other high school in the country this time of year. Seniors, anxious – ready to graduate. What you won’t find is a run of the mill, cookie cutter educational experience.
Much like the neighborhood itself, The Ed Center – as it’s often called – is a unique approach to addressing individual needs. The school for the ‘bad’ kids? Hardly. Students here simply learn in a different way and educators say that’s the way they prefer it. School director Lynn Macon says “people are attracted to the fact we think differently.”
Started in 1964 by Martha Kabbes (Macon’s sister), The Education Center caters to the personalized needs of children in grades 1-12 with ADHD, dyslexia, health issues and social disorders. On the other side of the spectrum, children who are gifted or who are advanced in their progress and bored find a home here as well.
Counselor Michele Ogburn, Macon’s daughter, says her aunt Martha saw those differences not being addressed in a traditional school setting and designed something just for these students. “We put them in positions to make decisions for themselves,” Ogburn says, “and they feel a sense of freedom and relief.” The Education Center also has the unique task of educating young creatives and athletes whose schedules a traditional school simply won’t accommodate. “A young Olympic hopeful,” Ogburn tells us, “had to be in Utah November through February. We simply shifted his summer around to give him that time to train.” Macon is quick to add that traditional schools are working harder, but it still ‘doesn’t work for everyone.’ “We have many success stories to tell.”
Around 150 students call The Ed Center their academic home in any given year, but the roles expand with after school programs, summer school and test prep. Administrators say the school works with 65-70 metro area public and private school students who come for an extra class in the off season. “And when they want to, why not,” Ogburn asks?
Public schools, she says, are coming around and allowing students to get ahead. “They see that it’s a good idea.” And for students who may have given thought to giving up on school all together, Macon says, The Ed Center gives a different option. “We have those who say ‘I can’t do school anymore’,” she tells us. Macon says a number of initial family meetings occur where the student says that out loud and their parents get it for the first time. “When children aren’t happy, the dynamics change at home.” Macon says their offer of help often brings tears. “For children unhappy in traditional schools, dealing with social or physical issues, if you really want to finish, we will not abandon you.”
Graduation is held in May and July and the school is SACS accredited. The Ed Center boasts National Honor Society, Youth Leadership Jackson, Model UN and Youth Legislature participants. Community service hours are required of students, too. Macon says “it’s a big deal to us, especially giving back to the Fondren community.”
The Ed Center is the only high school in Fondren. “I want people to know,” Macon reminds us “that there are options in our neighborhood. We are structured as a school, but flexible concerning an individual’s needs. We have room to customize.”