Founder | VOLTI
Lessons of a Lifetime
At five years old, Charles Acklin was placed in the first grade. For 13 years, he struggled with undiagnosed learning disabilities and dismal scholastic performance. Nevertheless, he learned how to survive as the education system ‘prepared’ him for what was considered a ‘good job’ in area coal mines or as a Pittsburgh steelworker.
Charles wanted something different, a career in Biology. His father taught field zoology at the University of Pittsburgh. Charles participated in field trips. He became a highly qualified Nature Studies instructor at a Boy Scout Camp. After graduating in the bottom ten percent, somehow, he was admitted to a college.
Scholastically unprepared, he was given one additional semester to improve his grades, provided he reported daily progress to the Dean of Students. Or he could leave college and return to the ‘good job’ the public schools prepared him for.
The College’s Dean of Students permitted him to join a campus Karate Club. With martial arts discipline and focus, his grades improved. He became a coach for the College Karate Team; and competed in two national championships. In addition, his classroom performance improved as he became educationally street-smart. After graduating with honors, he was accepted into Graduate School on the medical school track. But Charles thought he could make a more significant impact in education than in medicine.
While teaching high-risk middle school students and drawing from personal experience, positive deviance worked. His students excelled! He attracted attention resulting in a C.S. Mott Foundation Graduate Fellowship.
High-Level Problem Solving
After mastering high-level problem-solving as a graduate student, he achieved national recognition for his contributions to rural community education.
Charles took on the challenge of improving graduation rates in a small college. The rates were pathetic!
Groups of ‘special-needs, unemployable women’ were moved from a 76% failure rate to an 84% graduation rate. But, despite his successes, and six years of incessant administrative resistance to unconventional approaches, Charles did something different.
He moved his innovative discovery from education into business and industry.