Centering Around Happiness

Photo by Armando Collis

Philanthropists David and Leila Centner are changing the way our community conceptualizes learning through Centner Academy, the country’s first “happiness school.” Set to open on Tuesday, September 8, their namesake aims to cultivate mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving skills in children so they can flourish in all areas of their lives. 

Photo by Dana Rhoden

Spread along 75,000 square feet in the Miami Design District, the academy provides a student-centric environment from PK3 to eighth grade. “A happy child is a successful child,” says Leila Centner. “We have a diverse group of kids, and we teach them how to connect with each other through a project-based approach. Rather than just taking in information, students learn how to solve problems together in creative ways.” The academy’s philosophy, she notes, is based on the understanding that success doesn’t lead to happiness, but happiness leads to success. 

A flexible, personalized environment is key to the school’s model, which recognizes emotional intelligence as a crucial skill. “We look at each child as a whole, including their emotions and ways of expressing them,” says the mother of two. “Lessons are customized to meet all of their needs.” In addition to the standard academic curriculum, children engage in daily meditation sessions, language immersions, and hands-on activities. Fridays include electives and a nutrition expert who ensures all meals are composed of nutrient-rich foods.

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Text by Juliana Accioly

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