CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Zachery Miller said he never realized what he was capable of until a break from graduate school led him to start a small farm just outside of Asheville, N.C."I grew up here on the West Side. I'd never seen an animal besides a dog or a cat. I never thought twice about where my food came from. All of a sudden, I was out there being a farmer," Miller said."All it took was for me to just do it."Helping students realize their potential is part of the mission of Kanawha Individual Development Solutions, a learning center that Miller opened on Charleston's West Side earlier this month.Miller's philosophies on education focus on working with individual students to develop plans that are catered to their learning and academic needs, he said. Miller, 28, holds an undergraduate degree from Marshall University and a master's in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.Having worked in various learning environments, such as schools and literacy programs, Miller said he knew the school system wasn't where he wanted it to be."The bureaucratic system gets trickled down, and students are really at a disadvantage," Miller said of curriculum requirements. "They're not learning one-on-one, and they're pushed through the system to meet these percentages that each school has been divvied out."Students can easily fall behind in objective-focused learning, Miller said. K.I.D.S. is trying to teach them how to learn, he said."We're trying to teach that each person is an individual and they are capable of achieving their goals based on who they are," Miller said.The center's goal is to determine learning styles, and provide resources "to make it easier to tackle those challenges in the classroom."
When a student enrolls in K.I.D.S., he or she meets with a tutor to determine three goals, address challenges he or she faces, and identify a meter for success.K.I.D.S., located at 216 Washington St. W., has several independent study desks where students can work with tutors, as well as a conference table and large open area to encourage group work.While Miller said a portion of his clients might not live on the West Side, he wanted to put the center there to make the area more approachable. The building has a large mural on one side and frequently holds art events for children."There are several people working to better the West Side," Miller said. "I thought I'd put in my effort as well to benefit my community."The center is for-profit, but Miller said its rates -- which range from $25 to $45 per hour -- are competitive. Miller said he took the business route because he didn't want the intent and methods at K.I.D.S. to be dictated.
"I have philosophies, methods that I want to try," Miller said. "I didn't want to give it away to a board of directors who are going to change it."As a business ... when a student walks in and he doesn't jive with his program, he wants to change his direction. I don't have to answer to anybody but that student," Miller said.Enrollment is beginning to pick up, Miller said. Most students are referred to the center by word of mouth.He said he recognizes he has a "faulty" business plan, as he wants students to progress so they no longer need to come to K.I.D.S. The end goal is to give students the tools to empower themselves, Miller said."You have the tools you need to create a new future, and you don't have to fall in line to the one that's already existing when it doesn't necessarily mesh with what you expect or what you want out of life," Miller said.Reach Rachel Molenda at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5102.