Integra Development Center offers a holistic approach to education
The new Integra Development Center in Encinitas is an academic support center for teenagers, devoted to providing social and emotional learning and whole-person development to help all students thrive.
Integra’s founder Marisa Fogelman, an educator who has a master’s degree in English education from Columbia University and experience in college readiness counseling, was one of the co-founders of SOUL (School of Universal Learning), the first charter school to open in the San Dieguito Union High School District.
Denied by the San Dieguito board in 2017, the San Diego County of Education granted the charter school a two-year conditional approval. The charter met all conditions to remain open except enrollment and the school was forced to close its campus at the Solana Beach Boys & Girls Club in June 2020. The school tried to go private but the pandemic hit and they were unable to sustain the model.
“It was devastating to me, it was my whole life’s goal,” said Fogelman of the heartbreaking closure.
Determined not to give up, last year Fogelman wanted to continue serving families in some capacity so she pivoted and opened Integra Development Center: “I knew that (the pandemic) would have devastating effects for teenagers.”
Integra was not a school but a safe, in-person environment to support middle school and high school students in their district’s distance learning programs as well as home school students. It aimed to reach students who were burned out by Zoom calls and too much screen time and teens who were feeling the isolation caused by the pandemic.
The center provided a structure and balance for students’ days and utilized SOUL’s core social emotional learning program called Integra. The Integra teaching style focuses on helping students connect and cope with their emotions by utilizing five main building blocks: mental power, emotional intelligence, social skills, physical well-being and personal development.
More students than ever are facing a mental health crisis and parents are scrambling to react, Fogelman said.
“In all my years as an educator I have never seen such alarming rates of stress, depression, anxiety, social trauma, suicidal ideation and real trauma,” she said.
Fogelman’s philosophy has always been to be proactive, helping teens by giving them the tools needed to respond and navigate their thoughts, feelings and emotions and deal with things in their lives that are unsettling, whether it’s a breakup or a global pandemic.
As district students can now return to schools, this year Integra is focused on home school students and online school students.
The two-day-a-week program is offered to middle school students from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and high schoolers from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Inside the center on Second Street in Encinitas, there are six private offices/workspaces and one large community room where students come together for Integra.
The center also offers college, career and life counseling and hopes to soon offer teen groups.
“I found that when you give teens the time and space to connect and be vulnerable, it’s healing and repairing in ways that we can only imagine,” Fogelman said. Last year she said she would often come to the group with a lesson plan but all they needed to do was get in a circle and talk, “It really is magical,” she said.
One of the silver linings of SOUL closing has been the opportunity to get the Integra program into more schools, districts and homes. Her long-term goal is for Integra to serve as educational consultants and have a wider reach by sharing their tools and resources with all students.
“My life’s mission is to develop students holistically because I know it’s the difference between surviving and thriving,” Fogelman said. “It’s who I am, it’s what I’m passionate about. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do this and continue to work with teens. It’s absolutely what gets me up in the morning.”
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