CCIU Learning Center teaches more than just book smarts

CCIU opens Learning Center in former CAT Brandywine building

By Kyle Carrozza, Staff Writer, The Times

CCIU administrators and state officials cut the ribbon at the new Learning Center.

Chester County Intermediate Unit administrators and various dignitaries including Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, State Representatives Tim Hennsessey, Becky Cornbin and Chris Ross joined district officials to cut the ribbon at the new Learning Center, Wednesday.

CALN – The Chester County Intermediate Unit celebrated the opening of its Learning Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

Located in the building that formerly housed the Brandywine Center for Arts and Technology, the CCIU Learning Center uses hands-on experience to educate students with mental health issues.

“This building will provide an awesome opportunity for us, our students, and Coatesville,” said CCIU Executive Director Joseph J. O’Brien.

County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, State Representatives Becky Corbin, Chris Ross, and Tim Hennessey, and school district representatives from across the county attended the ceremony.

The Learning Center, which began holding classes for their 262 students earlier this month, provides a facility for the Reach and Steps/Options Programs for students whose mental health needs may not be suited for a traditional classroom.

“We have lots of resources here that we can share with the students, so I think it’s going to be really exciting for them,” said Assistant Director of Student Services Dr. Anita Ricio.

One of many student projects sits in the Learning Center small engines shop. Students fused an obsolete tractor with an obsolete motorcycle to make a working hybrid.

One of many student projects sits in the Learning Center small engines shop. Students fused an obsolete tractor with an obsolete motorcycle to make a working hybrid.


With smaller classes and techniques that allow students to get out of their seats and participate in lessons, the Reach and Steps Programs use methodology tailored to the students. They also focus on developing strategies to manage behavior, meet learning objectives, developing pro-social skills, maintain emotional stability, and overcome personal challenges.

“You really get to know these kids, get to know their families, which allows us to expose them to a lot more in all aspects, not just their education, said history and careers teacher Jennifer Williams.

Many of the teachers use more practical approaches than those seen in traditional classrooms. Physical education and health teacher Tim Litz, for example, emphasizes lifetime fitness, rather than the sports skills many physical education classes teach.

“They [the teachers] are seeing different techniques, different best practices they can use, so they are actually learning from each other,” said Riccio.

In addition to receiving standard curricula of math, language arts, and social studies, the Learning Center also offers a Career Academy, which provides students with pre-vocational education in areas such as automotive, cosmetology, hospitality, and technology. The program utilizes equipment and rooms that formerly used by CAT Brandywine in order to allow students to gain firsthand experience cooking or repairing engines.

“We want to make sure we give them some skills to access their community when we graduate,” said Riccio.

“A lot of our students are kinesthetic learners. They need to get up and move. They need to experience opportunities to build things and make things. They excel in that area, said Principal Dr. Debbie Noel.

Students also have access to career services, which help them write resumes and work on interview skills. They can also use the services to find internships, which may result in jobs in the future.

Like any school the CCIU Learning Center wants to shape students into valued members of society. With its resources—facilities and equipment as well as innovative educators—the Learning Center is, in itself, becoming a valuable part of the local society.

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