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March 5, 2014

Plainfield business celebrates 50-year history

PLAINFIELD — Educational Services Academy (ESA) is marking a milestone this year as it celebrates 50 years of helping people meet their goals. The family business has 50 years of success stories.

The company started in 1964 when Harold Stagner, a teacher at the Indiana Boys School, began tutoring children and adults in his Plainfield home.

“Our house was on Simmons Street, across from the Methodist church,” Jared Stagner, son of the founder and current business owner, said. “We had a door that opened to our den. People would walk in and wait in the living room until my dad was ready.”

Jared’s mother, Donna (Stagner) Watson, put up with the high traffic in her living room for about four years then decided it was time for a new place for the business.

“She told my dad they either needed to meet at the school or he needed to get his own clinic,” he said. “That’s when the business moved into the ASA building. It was built in 1968 and we’re among the first to occupy one of the spaces. We’ve definitely been here the longest.”

Stanger said he basically grew up in the ASA building.

“I can remember when Hardees was Burger Chef,” he said. “I used to run across the road to get a hamburger.”

Harold opened satellite offices in Martinsville, Crawfordsville, Lafayette, and Logansport.

Jared purchased the business from his father in 1995. He and his wife, Leanne, and daughter, Kaylee, 9, are still running the business and helping people achieve their academic goals. ESA helps people of all ages with math, reading, and study skills, as well as preparing students for SAT, ACT, or even GEDs.

“My daughter told me she wants to take the business over when she grows up,” he said.

He said it makes him proud to think back over all the years and students he and his family have touched.

He said when he took over he decided to just keep the Plainfield office open. He sold off the other offices because he wanted to focus on the education and not the business of it all.

“This is all I’ve ever known,” Jared Stagner said.

He attended Franklin College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in education.

“My favorite part has always been in the classroom, teaching kids one-on-one,” he said. “I really get to know the kids — sometimes too much about them.”

Stagner said he and his staff keep pupils engaged by switching learning activities often. He also said he thinks the relaxed atmosphere allows students to feel more comfortable asking questions.

“We go to about 10 to 15 graduation open houses every year,” Jared said. “It can get expensive.”

He said the success of the business has hinged on the professional and compassionate staff, dedicated staff, hard-working students, and small class sizes.

“One of our teachers has been with us for 18 years,” he said.

The company motto is “love to learn.” ESA has helped more than 17,000 people in its 50-year history.

“We’re not just tutors,” Stagner said. “We try to go back to where the problems are and correct them so one day, they won’t need tutors.”

Pictures and notes from former and current students adorn the walls at ESA. They tell a story of their own.

“And that’s just a small portion of the photos we have,” Stagner said.

He said his students can become like family after spending so much time together. One of his former pupils, Rachel (Yele) Arthur, made a lasting impression on him.

“She’s one of the students I’ll never forget,” he said. “She was in a head-on collision when she was in the eighth grade. She broke her neck. They said she would never graduate.”

He said she went on to graduate from Monrovia High School in 2002 and went on to earn a degree from Indiana State University. She’s now a teacher at Head Start in Mooresville.

“I started seeing Jared when I was 13,” she said. “I was falling behind in my studies.”

Arthur said it was not just the accident that was causing her to get behind in school.

“The accident might have had a little bit to do with it,” she said. “Most of it was my immaturity and as a teenager not wanting to listen to other people.”

Over the years, Jared and his family have been invited to several important events in Arthur’s life, including her wedding.

“When I went to Jared I didn’t care about anything,” she said. “He did so much more than help me with my studies. He taught me to be a creative person in my own way. He turned my life around. I thank him for what he did.”

Jared has learned about the influence of Educational Services Academy from a plethora of students, parents, and other community members.

He said one day he was speaking to Don Stinson, former superintendent of Mill Creek Community School Corporation and the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township, about his father.

“Don said to me, ‘your dad was a pioneer,’” Jared said. “My dad wanted to help kids and we’ve changed lives.”

Educational Services Academy is at 1660 E. Main St., Suite 106, Plainfield. For more information, call 839-1111.

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