Milons to take on Principal Role at The Learning Center

Cynthia Milons takes on role as Principal at The Learning Center

Cynthia Milons named Principal at The Learning Center

"It's hard to describe, but you feel it when you enter the building," says veteran Starkville Oktibbeha School District educator and administrator, Cynthia Milons as she talks about The Learning Center, the district's alternative school. "I've had the opportunity to see first-hand the importance TLC plays in our district and our community. Dr. Harris and the teachers and staff have cultivated a true family atmosphere."

This idea of family will be the key word as Ms. Milons takes on a new role serving as principal at The Learning Center (TLC), beginning July 1st. The move comes as current TLC principal Dr. Watress Harris transitions to become principal at Starkville High School.

"Ms. Milons has a heart for helping at risk students find a positive pathway to graduation," said SOSD Superintendent Dr. Tony McGee. "I am confident her experience in the district will be invaluable as she leads The Learning Center with the same commitment to restoration and student success that has already been established at TLC."

Milons currently serves as a Graduation & Transition Coach for the district, serving students at Partnership Middle School, Armstrong Junior High School and Starkville High School. In this role, she already works one day a week with the team at The Learning Center helping students make a successful transition back to their home schools after their time at TLC.

"In my role as Graduation Coach, I have enjoyed working with at risk students and seniors who may struggle to see the 'big picture' about what a high school diploma offers in their lives," Milons shared. "So many students struggle with the 'here and now', that it is hard for them to see past their current situation. I believe my purpose is to listen, encourage, and guide them to get their high school diploma."

Milons sees listening as the key to building those vital relationships that can help students succeed.

"I’ve learned that relationships are key when working with at-risk students," she shared. "So I want to continue to find that connection with students to break the shell, so to speak, where I can reach the student and begin listening to what the child needs."

She takes what she already sees in the teachers and staff at The Learning Center as a great example of the kind of relationship-building that can be most impactful. "The teachers out here really love these kids," she says. "And it shows, and we know the parents really appreciate that."

"We want kids to know that bad things happen to good people sometimes. We all have a story, and I think it's so important for us to listen. To be able to say, 'you may be a teenager having a hard time, but you're going to get through this.'"

As a lifelong resident of Starkville, Milons has seen the key impact community relationships have made in her own family, as well as in the roles she has served in the district. As the oldest daughter in her family, she experienced the "village" a small town can provide when her mother passed away at an early age. She and her siblings relied on church friends, teachers, and other community members to offer encouragement and support as they went through school. She sees that as an important example for how she approaches working with students and engaging community partners.

"It took a village to raise me -- just seeing how that village came together to help my dad. And it's taking a village to raise my daughter," Milons said. "When I think about home, I think about that. I believe it takes a village for all our children. You think about church. You think about your neighbors. You think about school. It may not seem fair, but teachers and staff hold a great responsibility to be a parent, or a counselor, or a mentor, whatever it takes for our students to be successful."

Milons defines some of that success as helping students see the value of getting their high school diploma, and in helping them recognize their own role in finding success. 

"A positive mindset is vital," she said. "We choose to focus on the positive path and want our students to experience redemption – but they need to know that decision begins with them. They are the ones that make that choice to do the work that leads to redemption and stay on a positive path to be successful in life."

A big part of staying on that positive path, Milons believes, is finding caring adults who can support students, and she hopes to call on what she's learned as the district's transition coach to implement strategies.

"The benefit I have is knowing there are teachers, there are adults at the home school that want to work with the student," she shared. "I think that's a fresh perspective that I have, knowing that when I work with another school there are people I know I can call. There are adults that care."

That love and care for students resonates with Ms. Milons as she reflects on her years in the classroom and living and working in the same town where she grew up and taught.

"You don't know what a student will grow up to become, but know that they still have that respect for you and that you treated them kindly. Seeing familiar faces around town of students that I've taught -- that's important, especially when they still want to give you a hug."