Meeting the needs of students: Study Center will see summer expansion as need grows

From Spring 2022 Cadets Magazine
By Ashley Wiehe

Forty-two years ago, the Study Center grew out of a need. Then, the need grew … and again … and now, again. 

This summer, Concordia is renovating the Study Center to provide more space for the growing number of students with unique learning needs, issues with accessibility, or help in the classroom.  

“The Learning Center,” as it was called then, was started in 1980 by CLHS English Teacher Shirley Jordan. She noticed in her classes, especially among her freshmen, that many were struggling with reading. She wrote up a proposal, and the program was started in a spare room in the school. 

“It was for kids who needed extra help with reading and studying,” Jordan said. “We had student volunteers for tutors, and teachers came in during study halls. … It gave (the teachers) more insight into what their students needed.” 

One student, in particular, was in need of the Study Center’s help, and Jordan worked with her personally to make her dreams come true. 

“She couldn’t do some of the assignments that were required,” Jordan said of 1995 graduate Anne Plassman. 

She wanted to go to college, but her cerebral palsy made accessibility to traditional classrooms difficult. 

“In order to get her enough credits to graduate, we created classes for her,” Jordan said. 

Jordan still thinks fondly of her time working with Plassman and bragged about how she graduated and now works at Ball State University. 

“She was a trooper,” Jordan said. 

Plassman’s father, Ron, also gave to the high school to make the elevator possible for his daughter, an important resource today for many students. The Plassman Family is giving again to help renovate the Study Center. 

Over the years, many of students have benefitted from the services in the Study Center. When Jordan retired in 1996, there were 87 students in need of this resource. That same year, the Study Center space was expanded because of the need that had grown. Today, the Study Center serves 134 students — some are in need of help because of an identified learning disability, some struggle in a certain subject and need tutoring, and some have physical needs and they need one-on-one instruction for their learning. 

“In order for students to access Christian education, we need to be able to meet a wide range of needs,” said Jacob Pennekamp, Head of School. 

“We do academics and accessibility,” added Lisa Sherrod, Director of the Study Center. “Some students, their hands don’t work as well so we give them notes. … Some students struggle with attention, and we will read the test for them. Sometimes we have kids that just start coming.” 

Through the summer project, the Study Center space will be expanded, reconfigured and combined. Right now, two, unconnected classrooms are used for students with offices and conference rooms in between. The renovation will combine the rooms with doors in between for easy access and then move the conference rooms and offices to the opposite end. 

“We are going to better serve the kids. We are going to be able to play off our strengths better,” Sherrod said about having her teachers together in the same room, adding that the renovation will allow a 30% growth in the number of students that the Center can serve.  

The renovation is made possible through the generosity of the Plassman Family, as well as a grant for furniture and some gift-in-kind work through CME. 

Jordan was so pleased to hear that the Study Center was still growing after so many years. She remembered the students and the impact that was made, and smiled at how the legacy has lived on. 

“I’m just so pleased that it is continuing, and it shows that there is a need for that kind of assistance,” she said.