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Unique education model empowering struggling students

GOSHEN, Ind. --

A unique model of education that was created in Michiana will be showcased in a tour Tuesday.

The Crossing School of Business and Entrepreneurship is geared towards students who struggle in a traditional classroom setting. It gives those students the opportunities to become contributing members of society.

The current CEO, Rob Staley, founded the school back in 2003. Since then, it has grown across the state.

Tuesday’s tour was initiated by Teacher’s Credit Union, a partner of the Crossing School.

“TCU has been a partner of ours since the first day when I walked in with $100 and said ‘We’re going to start 10 schools in 10 years,’” said Staley. “They laughed and said ‘All right, let’s go.’ And we started 20 schools in 10 years.”

Those schools use the model of education created by Staley, who served as a public school administrator for more than 20 years. He says he believes in the public school system, but throughout his time as an administrator he noticed too many kids dropping out or being expelled from school.

So he created a model focused on hands-on learning and job training.

Students work half the day on academics. Each student can work completely at his or her own pace.

The other half of the day they can either run a micro business, or work at a satellite campus and partner directly with businesses to work on the floor. The satellite campus allows them to get a diploma while earning a full-time salary.

 “We started this model in 2003 with a red pickup, a classroom full of computers, driving around town volunteering our time to cut down trees,” said Staley. “And also sitting in the classroom and making sure we were well prepared to pass the state exams and to get full credit for graduation.”

That evolved to teaching students how to create a business plan and handle finances for a business.

Now, students run five micro businesses throughout the state. Those include a candle company, a tree service, a firewood company, wood milling and making pallets.

Staley says he’s excited to give this opportunity to kids who dropped out of school or struggled in a traditional school environment.

 “That doesn’t mean they’re troubled kids,” he said. “We have a whole lot of kids that have never been in trouble in their life. They just struggled in that big school environment.”

Haley Harmon, a student at the Crossing School, describes why the environment works for her.

“It definitely works better for me because I have ADHD,” she said. “So at public schools, you know, you have to sit in a classroom all day. This kind of gives me a chance to get out here and do some stuff. Then by the time I get all the energy out from waking up and taking my medicine…I can go into the classroom and focus on my work and what I need to be doing.”

Students are held accountable to run each micro business. They say knowing that they have a team depending on them makes them want to come to school.

But another aspect of the school, in addition to the diploma and job-training skills, is a faith-based character building program.

“We do God talks on Mondays,” said student Dakota Halsey. “And we just talk about the Bible and go through things. Mr. Staley or the other teachers who do it help us understand what the Bible is saying. Ever since I came to this school it’s helped me build a better connection with God.”

Staley says he hopes to extend the school to more locations in the future.

“We have a vision of scaling up outside the state of Indiana,” he said. “But we have to create the sustainable model. We think we have found the sustainable model now through satellites. So we’re going to start scaling up again.”

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