Hutchison School's Center for Excellence offers educational enrichment for the community
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“I like [pottery] because if you mess up you get to try again,” says 8-year-old Lucie Lamberson, one of 10 girls in an after-school pottery class at Hutchison School. “It’s like my second favorite thing in the world,” announces 6-year-old Lilly Fahey as she fine-tunes her pinch pot. Her first favorite is yoga, which she also takes through Hutchison’s Center for Excellence.
These girls are among the 200 children who participate in a Center for Excellence class every weekday after school. Here you’ll find preschoolers taking pre-ballet, lower-school girls rehearsing in choir practice, middle-school girls constructing props for a Destination Imagination competition, upper-school co-eds in orchestra practicing the Beatles’ Blackbird for a spring concert; and lacrosse and tennis clinics keeping kids outdoors busy on an unseasonably mild February afternoon.
Reaching out to the community
Since Hutchison School introduced its popular Arts Academy in 2004, which evolved into the Center for Excellence in 2007, thousands of students from more than 150 schools have participated in after-school, weekend, and summer programs. The classes are held on the school’s rolling, 52-acre campus. Other private schools nationally are now using Hutchison’s CFE as a model.
Hutchison’s CFE programs are designed to build skills while having fun. They integrate science, math, history, language arts, leadership, and life skills into exciting activities. [The children] are building skills they can use throughout their lives,” says CFE Director Tracey Zerwig Ford. Summer classes are half-day or full-days from a single day to two weeks. There are co-ed and girls-only classes for preschoolers to high school seniors. Prices vary but a four- to five half-day summer class runs around $150. Financial aid is also available for some programs.
The goal of the Center for Excellence “is to share Hutchison’s tradition of excellence in learning, exploring, looking, and thinking with the greater Memphis community,” says Zerwig Ford. The center gives program participants a chance to “meet students from the tri-state area with the same interests. Kids and families make great connections that otherwise they may not have,” she notes.
Hutchison’s campus includes soccer fields, tennis courts, an athletic center, computer labs, dance studios, a lake, swimming pool, and theater. “The Center is such a great fit for our facility and for bringing the community onto our campus,” says Zerwig Ford. CFE has grown from serving 3,450 students from 80 schools across the Mid-South in 2007 to more than 7,000 students from 158 schools in 2012. More than 60 percent of its summer and weekend participants come from outside the Hutchison community. The center also offers year-round family activities, parenting workshops, and professional development for educators.