I walked into the renovation site early hoping to shoot a couple of pictures before the workers arrived. Across the big expanse, I could see a man walking toward me. It only took a few steps closer for me to ask, "Is that you, Bad Eye?" (Yep, there really is an HVAC worker and parent of a former student with the interesting name I had just called out.)
The answer came. "No, Ms. Mary Jo, it's Colt. I'm helping my dad out today. " The smile spread across my face as I got closer and saw easily how I could have mistaken the grownup Colt for his father. The years quickly rolled back to memories of a three year old who had first enrolled in TLC! Montessori Preschool and then continued with The Learning Center through 8th grade.
When I reached out to Colt's mother for some of her memories of their family's TLC years, she quickly reminded me that her "little one" had been on the TLC Montessori wait list before he was born. She recalled how happy Colt was when she finally cut those apron strings and enrolled him in the full-day program. From his preschool years through 8th grade graduation in 2016, Colt enjoyed learning.
Colt and I stood in the middle of unfolding renovation project as we spent some time "catching up". He quickly moved into "21st century student" mode as he took in details of the space soon to house 7th-9th, then 10th -12th grades. No question his face lit up as he took in the fact that the learning environment has a stage. Colt had been very active in our school's drama program, so no surprise that he could sense the thrill of performances yet to unfold in this setting. He asked strong questions about the future plans for the entire 30,000 sq. ft. facility. I stood almost transfixed as I took in the profoundly insightful conversation with this former student. When I asked him to spontaneously describe in one word what he took away from his Learning Center years that had impacted his life the most, he quickly answered, "Collaboration."
He graduated the Early College with a certification in welding and an AA degree at the age of 18. He has recently worked as a personal chef, going into vacation cabins to cook. His passion seems to be culinary. Besides working for his dad, Colt has been hired by the Casino in the food industry. The idea plays in his head of moving to Sylva where he can also attend Western Carolina University as he delves further into the real work world.
The word possibility comes to my mind with this young man's story. As Colt walks into his future with a certification in welding, a passion for the culinary arts, a strong work ethic and the desire to continue his learning, I am certain he will find his way to becoming all that he can be. Once again, The Learning Center mission is accomplished.