Marana’s first Sylvan Learning Center opened this Monday, Jan. 8. Catherine Oberholzer has spearheaded the process to open a learning center for the community since last March.

Oberholzer and her family moved to Tucson in early 2017 so that her daughter with learning disabilities could receive specialized education from local private schools. Upon moving, Oberholzer heard a Sylvan ad on the radio, and figured getting involved would be the perfect opportunity to combine her passions for children, education and business. And thus, since March of last year, this project has been in the works.

“It is my hope for all children to read,” Oberholzer said.

Since September, Donnie Houston, director of education for the new location, has been busily working to spread the news and engage the community about the new Sylvan location.

“Starting a new business has its bumps and bruises like anything else,” Houston said. “But, we have been well received by Marana and have a strong relation with the Chamber of Commerce.”

Houston has been making appearances at schools and board meetings, including at Twin Peaks Elementary, which the new Sylvan location is right next to. 

“We’ve been welcomed with open arms by local schools,” Houston said. “And I think it’s because Marana has an excellent school district and they know we can help them. The research is clear, the things we teach help students develop life skills, and confidence affects everything you do.”

Among the services going to be offered are classics like SAT prep, math and reading and new programs like coding, robotics and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). These advanced classes fit in well with the technological leanings of many schools in the area.

“These products and services can benefit all students,” Houston said, “Whether they want to go to a university, community college, trade school. We pride ourselves on a holistic approach to learning.”

The “soft opening” took place this week, and a grand opening is planned for sometime in February with a ribbon cutting. This opening comes just over three years after the unexpected and abrupt closure of another Sylvan Learning Center in South Tucson -- a closure that left many families upset.

“It was not a pretty finish,” Oberholzer said. “The way that Sylvan went was bad news, it was simply mishandled. We’ve been trying to find ways to make amends.”

The franchisee system of how Sylvan runs many of their locations ultimately means that the old and new locations are run by a completely different group people. 

“As a business person, I understand the power of brand image and it’s been something we’ve been trying to rebuild,” Oberholzer said. “But it’s not something I’ll shy away from discussing.”

There is a second location set to open in Tucson by 2019.

The new Sylvan Learning Center is at 9110 N. Silverbell Road. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 3 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Fridays and Sundays by appointment.

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