Fusion A Revolutionary Way to School

COVER STORY | By Melissa Kersjes | Photos By BAC Photography and Design –

Lisa Veneralla, Lauren Anthony, Ahmad Hernandez and Curt Coffey.

Lisa Veneralla, Lauren Anthony, Ahmad Hernandez and Curt Coffey.

If you’re the only one in class, can’t the teacher teach to your pace of learning? Is it necessary to raise your hand? Does lecture look more like conversation in a one-to-one classroom?

It’s hard to imagine a school with classrooms that hold just one student and one teacher – but they exist! In fact, a new Fusion Academy just opened in Sugar Land.

Fusion Academy is a private middle and high school where all classes are one-to-one: one student and one teacher per classroom. This unique education model was born over 28 years ago out of frustration with the status quo and the passionate belief in the power of positive relationships to unlock academic potential. But Fusion’s school model isn’t solely about the smallest class size possible; it’s about helping kids flourish not only academically, but emotionally and socially, too.

History of an Education Revolution

In order to understand how this school model works, let’s first talk about its conception. In 1989, Michelle Rose Gilman, founder of Fusion Academy, was fresh out of college and ready to change the world of education. Shortly after college, the therapeutic school she was teaching at closed without notice for lack of funding. She began to realize that the traditional school models, both public and private, she’d seen were not helping the kids she wanted to serve. It was then she and a small staff began one-to-one tutoring out of her garage. As her services grew in demand, so did traffic in her neighborhood, forcing her to move to a building in Solana Beach, California.

Gilman said, “We still tutored and mentored kids who, no matter what we did, no matter how hard we worked, still were not thriving in traditional schools.” With that challenge in mind, she took a leap of faith and created a school she knew would really work and change lives. Fusion Academy’s first full-time high school student started in 2001.

“We modeled our school around the needs of students who could not find success in the traditional educational model,” Gilman said, “whether they struggled with learning differences, ADHD, social issues or simply needed a flexible schedule so that they could pursue their outside interests.”

All Fusion classes were, and still are, taught one-to-one. This completely individualized way of doing school has started an education revolution from this first Solana Beach campus and has swept across the country.

In 2008, Fusion Academy’s success in Solana Beach gained the attention of a private firm, American Education Group (now Fusion Education Group). Gilman partnered with the group with the vision of taking Fusion Academy across the country and beyond. Since 2010, Fusion Academy has grown to more than 35 campuses in eight states across the country.

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Fusion Sugar Land Faculty Majida Al-hussam, Meagan Davenport, Ahmad Hernandez, Curt Coffey, Christina Chancoco and Rachel Whittington.

Fusion Sugar Land Faculty Majida Al-hussam, Meagan Davenport, Ahmad Hernandez, Curt Coffey, Christina Chancoco and Rachel Whittington.

“At other schools, you’re just another number. I feel like here you’re actually a person.”

– Joe, Fusion Warner Center student

“Having a one-on-one setting in the classroom,

I felt my class was personalized so well for me that it was not only easy for me to succeed but easy for me to thoroughly enjoy. Since my first time stepping into Fusion, I have felt encouraged by each faculty member to test my strengths and discover new ones.”

– Caroline London, Fusion South Bay student

“Previously, I was enrolled in a school that robbed me of my individuality. At Fusion, the loving and motivational environment spurs me to be optimistic about the future. It provided the security that proceeded in accumulating all that was robbed from me.”

– Jana Bondurant, Fusion Houston Galleria student

One-to-One Works

So you may be asking how one-to-one classrooms work. Visually, you might think it’s a small office with a couple of desks in it. But it’s adorned with that teacher’s subject matter and personal interest décor. It has soft lighting, and it feels cozy.

Students and teachers spend their 50 minute class period together working through the material at a pace that works for the student. Teachers work to first build trust with their students as a foundation for learning. Fusion Academy believes in the model of “love, motivate, teach.” Students aren’t going to care about the material if they don’t feel cared for by the teacher. A mentor relationship naturally forms, and these positive relationships are what makes Fusion work.

Students can’t hide in a one-to-one classroom. They aren’t competing with 40 other students to be heard. They aren’t afraid to speak up or be wrong, because it’s just the student and the teacher.  And there’s no possibility of falling through the cracks. This is why one-to-one works.

Beyond the Classroom

Curt Coffey and Christina Chancoco in Fusion Sugar Land’s recording studio.

Curt Coffey and Christina Chancoco in Fusion Sugar Land’s recording studio.

You may be asking how kids have social interaction in a one-to-one environment. Student-led, Fusion-supported social interaction happens where it should: outside the classroom. Fusion Academy has fun nights, student interest groups and other organizations for students to learn and grow together.

Homework doesn’t go home. Yes, you read that correctly. All students complete their homework in one of Fusion’s Homework Café® spaces on campus. Here, they have access to teacher help and must be checked out before leaving campus for the day. No more nightly homework battles!

What Are Fusion Students Like?

They are bright, but they feel like they don’t “fit” at a traditional school. Fusion kids, simply put, aren’t flourishing in a conventional environment. Every student is different, and while it’s impossible to put students into categories, Fusion generally serves kids with the following backgrounds: those challenged with attention deficit disorder, learning differences or anxiety; gifted learners; professional athletes or actors needing a flexible schedule; or students who just plain aren’t thriving in their current environment.

The Value of Fusion

All students and their families value Fusion’s unique program for a number of reasons. Fusion practices Mastery Learning, which means students must master a lesson before moving on to the next. So, if a student is struggling with a topic, the teacher works with them until it clicks. And if that student is a natural when it comes to another topic, they might advance to the next lesson early.

Every student’s path is different, and Fusion partners with students to help them achieve their goals, whatever they may be. Many Fusion students go on to attend a college or university, while some pursue a trade school, gap year or another option. Fusion has post-secondary counselors available to help and programs and courses to support students’ goals.

While other schools may be cutting their art and music programs, Fusion has a robust roster of electives for students to explore and pursue their creativity. They also have a wellness program that includes art and music, along with physical wellness and healthy habits. Students learn healthy self-expression and how to deal effectively with stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, body image issues and social pressures.

It is this equal focus on the academic, social and emotional wellbeing of students as individuals that makes Fusion work.

Connect with Fusion

Even after reading all about Fusion, there’s nothing like seeing a Fusion campus. You are invited to take a tour, meet the team and see how one-to-one education really works. Visit FusionSugarLand.com to connect. Fusion can’t wait to meet you and show you this truly revolutionary way to school.

The Fusion Difference

Fusion is a revolutionary private middle and high school. Students can enroll full time or can join part time with some unique programs:

Classes for Credit:

Academic or enrichment, college prep or honors, Fusion has over 250 courses to choose from that can be taken for credit or just for fun.


Fusion offers tutoring across all subject areas and for many electives as well. Just like their full-time courses, tutoring is always one-to-one and personalized to the student’s strengths, interests and learning style.

Test Preparation:

Students benefit from study tools, review techniques and test taking strategies for whatever test they are preparing for.

Post-Graduation Navigation:

Fusion is here to help with college applications, learning life skills and preparing for the transition from high school to the real world.

To learn more and see what other options are available, visit FusionSugarLand.com.