“Believing Every Child Can Be Gifted and Talented”

Writer  /  Lisa Mitchell

Photographer  /  Amy Unger

The path that Ashanti Ordone followed to fulfill her family legacy and personal passion for education is not the traditional one that you might expect. Ashanti grew up on the northwest side of Indianapolis and graduated from Indiana University Law School, after which she practiced family and real estate law. Throughout her time practicing law, her passion for education and teaching remained strong, and she often served as a substitute teacher or taught night-school courses.

Teaching is strong in Ordone’s family history. Her mother, Marcia Butler, was in education for 40 years serving as a kindergarten teacher, an elementary school principal, and was director of the Gifted & Talented program for Indiana Public Schools when she retired. Her father had served as a high school teacher who then became an attorney. She has seven aunts and uncles who all served in education throughout their careers. Education was truly in her blood, and she felt it was her purpose and calling to pursue as well.

In 2002, Ashanti was feeling compelled to make a career transition to focus more on education. Around that time, her mother was getting ready to retire. They had a conversation with Ashanti expressing her interest in opening a day care center, and her mother revealed, to Ashanti’s surprise, that it had been a lifelong dream of hers to do exactly that. With their newfound common passion, the two began making plans to turn their daycare dream into reality to serve and educate the children in their community.

Their programming focus for the daycare was to recognize and develop the gifts and talents of all children. Whether the child’s gifts were in art, music, interpersonal relationships, sports, or any other number of other, those gifts would be developed alongside a strong academic foundation. The goal is to help each child identify and begin to develop his or her unique talent and gifts before even entering elementary school.

The first daycare opened in August 2002 in a home near 46th Street and Shadeland Avenue. It had been renovated for the sole purpose of housing the school. With her mom’s strong connections in education, she reached out to her friends and encouraged them to start bringing their grandchildren to the school. Enrollment grew quickly, and soon was full. They realized quickly that to really have the impact they wanted to have in the community, a larger space would be necessary, and soon.

In December, 2002, they bought a building on Shadeland Avenue that was licensed to accommodate 100 children. In 2005, an additional classroom was opened at that location to allow for further growth as demand for the targeted curriculum focused on pre-writing, pre-math, and pre-reading, in addition to the talent-development component. In May, 2013, a second daycare location was purchased on Ruth Drive, near 74th Street and Keystone Avenue. That location is licensed for 140 children.

Throughout the growth of the Gifted & Talented Academy, Ashanti’s husband Terrence had been encouraging her every step of the way. He is her biggest supporter and always challenges her to think big and maximize the positive impact she is having. In 2015, Terrence transitioned toward helping with the business. He learned it firsthand as he helped open the upcoming third location of the Gifted & Talented Academy. Running the daycares has become a true family affair.

Ordone had an experience with one of her families recently that confirmed to her the value of what they were striving to provide to the program’s children. A child that had attended Pre-K and kindergarten at Gifted & Talented Academy had recently started attending another traditional school program after the family moved out of the area. The mother of this child called Ashanti and said that the teacher had contacted her and wanted to know where the child had attended kindergarten because she had never seen a first-grader come in to her classroom so well prepared. As an educator and daycare provider focused on helping kids prepare and develop their skills, there is no greater endorsement than that.

The school’s slogan reflects the core beliefs of Ashanti, her mother, and everyone who plays a role in the daycares and in serving and educating their children: “All children Can Be Gifted and Talented.”

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