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New Jackson County private school to begin taking applications November 1

Last updated on January 9, 2024

By Kristin Fox

In the fall of 2025, parents will have a new education opportunity for their children with the opening of the Journeys School for the Gifted and Talented in Sylva, North Carolina. While the school will be located in Jackson County, it will be open to all students in western North Carolina.

Journeys School for the Gifted and Talented is a revolutionary independent, private school offering specialized education to exceptional learners. 

Edward and Brianne Hudak recently purchased property located at 414 Skyland Drive, Sylva with the intent of starting the school. The Hudak’s requested and was granted a rezoning request to rezone the property from general business district to professional business district from the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. The rezoning was necessary, as schools are not allowed in the general business district; however, schools are permitted use within the professional business district.

The Hudak’s intend to use the entire 14 acres the school will be located on for outdoor learning spaces, settings for expanded learning opportunities, an amphitheater, nature trails and more.

“Sylva is an ideal location for a school of this kind,” said Brianne Hudak. “The central proximity to numerous towns, the local university, professional and medical offices and the suburban and rural mix can offer families and young professionals increased educational opportunities.”

Renovations and construction is expected to begin soon. Anyone interested in following Journeys School’s progress can sign up for a monthly newsletter at www.journeysgt.org.

Journeys first school year will begin August 2025. Initial applications will be available November 1, 2023 on the school’s website. More information about the school can be found on the school’s website.

Journeys School will serve kindergarten through 8th grade students. Plans are to have around 60 students enrolled in the school. The smaller school model is intentional in that it fosters deeper relationships and allows for meaningful connections with content, peers, teachers, and the community.

The school’s student population will consist of neurodiverse, high-ability, high-potential, gifted and talented, exceptional learners. Gifted and talented students are those that demonstrate or have the potential to demonstrate higher achievement levels in one or more areas.

The school is utilizing a biophilic design to create an organic environment where learners can be properly recognized and holistically developed. They will be encouraged to critically think, creatively problem solve, and master content. This will provide them with the confidence to embrace their gifts and talents and the courage to challenge themselves to do more and be more.

Each student will receive a personalized learning plan based on his/her unique interests and approaches to learning that evolve with them throughout their academic journey.

The school is independent/private; therefore tuition-based paid by the families. Tuition rates are to be determined; the school is considering affordability, recruiting and retaining the highest-quality staff, and providing outstanding educational opportunities. The school will offer financial assistance to families as our goal is to create a sustainable, equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment for all to thrive.

In September, the General Assembly gave approval to triple funding for the Opportunity Scholarship program and remove income restrictions for getting a private school voucher. It also eliminated the requirement about prior enrollment in public school. This is advantageous to any family considering Journeys as a school of choice.

“I taught gifted students and was intrigued by their unique ideas and ways to problem solve; Their critical thinking abilities and precocious nature made diving into content meaningful and comprehensive and inspired me to do more and be more,” said Hudak when asked why she wanted to start the school. “After seeing gaps in equity, I became a passionate advocate of the gifted and supported educators, specialists, and families in the gifted community to close the gaps, motivate the students, and help them reach their full potential. I thought, ‘These are our future leaders- how can we let them slip through the cracks? Why are we not supporting their asynchronous development holistically?’” 

“Through years of research and careful consideration, I developed Journeys with the intent to rescue those that feel they are alone on an island and to provide them with the skills and strategies needed to pursue their passions and become productive and informed citizens,” she added. “Being gifted and talented is a superpower which can be valuable and useful in moving society forward. Those who think outside the box can offer broader solutions to the challenges our ever-changing world faces.”

Mrs. Brianne Hudak, M. Ed., Founder/Head of Journeys School, has been in education for over sixteen years serving in public, private, and charter schools. She is passionate about meeting exceptional students’ needs both academically and social-emotionally through equitable and innovative methods/models, and developing lifelong learners, global citizens, and future leaders with critical and creative thinking skills. 

Her roles in education are diverse and include teaching the gifted and talented, single-gender, PK3-5th grades, STEM, theatre arts, and global studies. She has also held administrative roles as a curriculum and instructional specialist, teacher mentor, student activities director, dean of students, assistant principal, and K-12 school leader. 

Hudak is an educational entrepreneur, educational coach and consultant, and currently pursuing a doctorate degree in educational leadership focusing on combating underachievement in the gifted and talented population. She is a professional member of numerous gifted and talented organizations and serves on national gifted education leadership committees.

“Gifted and talented students need a unique learning experience,” said Hudak. “Tying them to average standards can create boredom, behavioral problems, apathy, and an overall lack of motivation. Private schools can offer more autonomy and flexibility in their methods and models, which will provide authentic learning experiences and benefit the students at Journeys by empowering them to embrace their characteristics and challenging them to do more and be more.”

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