As a self-described “numbers person,” Morgan Stone planned to pursue a career as a financial analyst after graduating from Clemson University in 2015.
But she also loved working with young people, and a job at The Tutoring Center in Clemson-Seneca quickly set her on another path.
Stone had discovered her life’s work: helping students succeed academically.
“I saw first-hand the change tutoring was making in children,” Stone said. “I saw kids coming in with their first ‘A’ on a report and their dads doing a happy dance.
“After that, I knew that was what I wanted to do permanently.”
In February, Stone opened the Greenville office of The Tutoring Center, a national company with more than 100 franchises across the nation.
The Greenville center, located on Pelham Road, offers intensive instruction in reading, writing and math (including algebra, geometry and calculus) for students — public, private and homeschooled — in grades K-12.
The center also offers instruction in study skills and preparation to take the SAT or ACT tests.
Whether a student is behind in school or wants to get ahead, the instructors at the Tutoring Center work with each individual for an hour, two or three times a week, with the aim of rapidly improving academic achievement, Stone said.
“All of our hour sessions are very intense.” said Stone, the owner and director of the Greenville center. “Within six months, we typically see a full grade level of improvement for all students.”
The Tutoring Center Greenville has carved out a niche for itself that sets it apart from other similar businesses, Stone said. The center focuses not only on academics but also on building character and inspiring young people with a sense of limitless possibility.
Each session begins with a few minutes of tutor-student discussion in front of the center’s Wall of Fame, featuring pictures of all the students and posters with reflections on courage, confidence and other subjects.
“We put values back on the table,” Stone said. “We talk about things like how to be caring, what is respect, how to stop bullying, how to be a good friend — all of these messages that are really important. We make sure values are at the forefront of everything we do.”
Part of that involves encouraging self-confidence in students, she said.
“It’s something that I think a lot of kids are lacking: hearing positive and uplifting messages all the time,” Stone said. “A lot of kids need to know they can do it. A lot of kids can do it but they’ve been burned once or twice and are struggling because of that. We really aim to help kids feel confident and feel empowered. Given the right tools, a child can do absolutely anything.”
Making a difference
Stone grew up in Marietta, Georgia but moved to the Upstate with her family when she was a junior in high school. She later attended Clemson as a communications studies major with a minor in business administration.
Her husband, former Clemson offensive lineman Daniel Stone, famously proposed to Stone on the field of Memorial Stadium two years ago — a gesture caught on video and replayed on YouTube hundreds of thousands of times.
After graduating from Clemson, Stone planned a career as a financial analyst and worked in a big bank for two years.
“Though I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel like I could have the impact on parents and children that I wanted to have,” Stone said. “I’m a numbers person myself and I took countless math courses at Clemson but I realized that I loved people more than I loved numbers. I really wanted to make a difference.”
Stone had always been interested in working with young people. Throughout her middle and high school years she had served as a mentor and tutor to younger and often disadvantaged students.
A stint working at The Tutoring Center of Clemson-Seneca inspired her to open a Greenville franchise of the nationwide company.
“Once I realized that I could turn my passion, what gives me joy, into my career, I decided to take this leap of faith and bring this to Greenville,” Stone said.
Founded in Long Beach, California by educational psychologist Edward Thalheimer, The Tutoring Center maps out a specific educational plan for each student and works not only with the student but also family and educators.
“We customize a program depending on what each child needs,” Stone said. “We collaborate with parents, teachers, guidance counselors and resource specialists. We really want to become a part of a child’s team. That’s the No. 1 goal: to create this sense of team. We make sure everyone is on the same page.”
The Tutoring Center also uses a “rotational approach to learning,” with students at each session working at three different stations through separate sets of materials with different instructors.
“It keeps kids engaged for the full hour,” Stone said. “We not only help kids rapidly increase their academic skills. We also increase their concentration span.”
Uniquely, Tutoring Center students most often rely on older technologies: pencil and paper.
“We work out problems in ‘old school’ fashion,” Stone said.
Currently, The Tutoring Center Greenville has 21 students and five instructors.
“Offering one-to-one tutoring really means that all of my instructors really get to know each child,” Stone said. “I am personally invested in each and every one of my families and kids.
With the school year coming to an end soon, Stone is looking forward to the center’s first summer of tutoring programs.
“Summer is the very best time for instruction because it is the only time we’re not having to catch a moving target,” Stone said. “We work to help kids to get ahead. For the kids who are behind, it’s the only time where they’re not stressed and pressured with school. They can truly focus on the skills they might have missed and we can really accelerate the closing of the skills gap that some of these kids have.”
Tutoring, Stone said, can change young lives.
“A student who didn’t like school at first will come in with an ‘A,’ saying ‘Hey, I like school,’” Stone said. “For me, there’s nothing more exciting and rewarding than that.”
Current operating hours for The Tutoring Center, located at 215 Pelham Road, Suite B202, are Monday-Thursday, 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Fees range from $31 to $39 an hour. For more information, call 864-777-0050.
Paul Hyde covers education and everything else under the South Carolina sun. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.