Cindy Diiorio - Fusion Academy Lake Forest
Fusion Academy Lake Forest
Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce: What was the inspiration behind Fusion Academy and what was your personal inspiration for working with the organization?
Cindi Diiorio: Back in 1989 Michelle Rose Gilman started Fusion Academy out of her garage in Solana Beach, California. She was a special ed teacher at the time and her heart and soul was teaching kids who would not have been served well by traditional schools. She started working with kids one-on-one and realized that there was so much value in building relationship with a student, spending time getting to know them, their interests, how they learn, what motivates them and what doesn’t! She designed the Love, Motivate, Teach model that is still the basis for all we do in Fusion schools across the nation today.
I actually heard of Fusion while working at another school in the area. My son was needing some tutoring and some one-on-one support for his classes. I went on my first tour as a potential parent and I just fell in love with it. When I learned that Fusion was hiring and since I believed in it so much, I wanted to be part of it. I know what we are doing makes a huge difference in the lives of our students. It excites me!
LFLBC: What is your vision for Fusion Academy?
CD: I would love to have Fusions everywhere to serve all the kids that need to be served. For this campus I want to make sure that we are serving all the kids in the community who need us, and that we’re not just educating them, but we're actually transforming their hearts and minds through the relationship we have with them. I want to ensure they are receiving an education that they could not get somewhere else- one rooted in a true understanding of them as unique, individual people with diverse needs and interests.
LFLBC: What has been your greatest business initiative?
CD: I started something called the ‘LEAN Lunch.’ LEAN stand for Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Educational Administrators Network. A group of us gets together quarterly at a local restaurant and we talk about what's going on in education...the issues that have come up and new struggles that we haven’t dealt with in the past. I invite all the local schools Principals and Heads of Schools. A lot of times, I'll invite mental health professionals to come to join us and give pointers on how to deal with anxiety, for example. How to recognize and respond to it effectively the classroom. We’re just talking about ways that we can care for kids and educate them well. Through these informal lunch conversations and visits with one another, we build trusting relationships that help us “lean” on one another when needed.
LFLBC: What is one thing you want people to know about Fusion Academy?
CD: I would love for people to know that Fusion Academy is a college preparatory school for all kids 6th Grade through High School. It’s not a therapeutic school and it’s not a special ed school. It’s just a school for kids who need something different than the traditional school setting. We try to be that something different. A second thing I’d like people to know is that we can support students through their traditional school struggles. We’d like other schools to see us as a partner that can tutor their students or offer them a course for credit so their students can succeed.
LFLBC: What other local businesses do you work with?
CD: Definitely all the local public and private schools. We also try to reach out to the PHP and IOP programs, as well as mental health professionals who are in our community. We want to know everybody so that we can help with referrals, as we mutually serve kids and their families.
LFLBC: How do you give back to the community?
CD: We definitely find a lot of opportunity to support local businesses within the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff area for our outreach efforts and networking. We have been a sponsor of several events at Lamb’s Farm and we try to support them and stay engaged with them. As I mentioned earlier, we make sure to support locally owned restaurants for our lunches and special events with parents. We also support local theatre by purchasing tickets to and attending live performances.
LFLBC: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
CD: We have an Open House every Tuesday at 11:00 am. It’s hard to understand the concept until you come see it. We also have community events like Lunch & Learn’s each month where we invite mental health professionals or expert speakers to present on various topics. We did neurofeedback this month, and we’ll be doing conversations on school refusal and anxiety, as well as technology addiction over the next few months. It’s a great way for people to come visit Fusion while also learning something!