50th anniversary cake | Image: The Education Center

It’s been fifty years since Martha T. Kabbes saw a need for a different approach to education. As the founder of The Education Center, a K-12 private school in Fondren, Kabbes hoped to offer a school of opportunity. Five decades later, her legacy lives on.

The Education Center caters to the personalized needs of children 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.

Looking back on fifty years of shaping young minds, school counselor Michele Macon Ogburn, Kabbes’ niece, says she’s amazed. “I’m going through old pictures and records and I think, ‘Wait a minute, Aunt Martha did this in this amount of time’? she marvels, recalling the school that went from a home tutoring business to now, three buildings, completely filled, with a track record of success. “In 1964, there was nothing for students who thought differently and learned differently.”

The “Ed Center” is a SACS accredited, custom approach to learning. “We are what you need us to be,” Ogburn notes of the flexible environment. “Sometimes were not the school families want, but maybe we’re the school they need. They see that quickly. They see the relief from the severe stress they have been under when they were trying to make their child fit in a box.”

Some of those children include athletes, models, singers or chefs, whose specific life goals don’t always fit into the traditional school mold. “A good percentage of our kids are trying to graduate early, some taking their last year to do an internship,” Ogburn explains.

But it’s not just aspirational situations that the Ed Center caters to. Take subject phobia, a very real issue facing some students. Ogburn says, you are not alone. “We work with many who have math anxiety and have convinced themselves they’re not good, so they’ve become not great,” she says. “We try to bring emotions and the importance of the emotional state into the academic setting. Until it’s fixed, we won’t get to where we need to be.”

While the Education’s Center’s success rate isn’t 100%, Ogburn says the biggest reason for failure usually boils down to family commitment. “The rare time we’re not successful is when I cannot physically get the student here. When you miss too much, you won’t be satisfied. I can’t do my job and the teachers can’t do their job.” She adds, “I’ll do back flips, somersaults, offer the sun, moon and stars, but I can’t make them take it. I wish I could follow them and make them make great decisions, but it doesn’t work that way.”

Though many families see the school as a full time choice, some simply utilize the Ed Center’s tutoring programs or free academic advising. “You may just want to check it out, just come talk,” Ogburn says. “Nine times out of ten, we’re the right choice, but sometimes not, and we’ll sit and talk anyway. We can help build a strategic plan and find the next step, even if you choose not to attend here. That’s the right thing to do.”

What’s the reward for the fifteen year education veteran who grew up seeing her aunt Martha, and school director mom, Lynn Macon, shape young minds? Ogburn emotionally says, “I think of a number of students who gone on to do incredible things and I can’t say in the beginning years I would have imagined as much. I get frustrated like anyone would, but I’ve learned if we stay patient, kids grow up and change and use their talents. If we speak with them enough – talking, caring – what we are saying will rattle around in there somewhere. The chance to make a difference is important. We are in this for the long haul and won’t abandon you. We stay in it until we find solutions for the child to be successful. It’s an honor and a privilege.”

See a slideshow of The Ed Center, past and present (images courtesy of The Ed Center)