The story of Bodine School is a story of light.
Its narrative begins in 1854 in a small school in Port Huron, Michigan. A young Thomas Edison wanders home confused, dismissed hours before the final school bell, with a note from his teacher. His mother reads the note, which describes the boy as incapable of learning.
25 years later, Edison’s dyslexic mind invents the lightbulb, bringing light to our world.
The story fast forwards to 1962, where in a small chicken coop in Germantown, TN, a young inventor and his wife start a fledging electronics venture. The Bodine Company will go on to be one of the world’s leading lighting companies.
However, only 7 years later, all light is lost. Dick and Virginia Bodine’s son Rick is a natural inventor. Though he shows enormous aptitudes in science and engineering, Rick cannot read. He is labeled stupid and lazy. Richard and Virginia, however, refuse to believe their child is anything but gifted. After years of frustration, a physician finally identifies Rick as dyslexic. With no support available in Tennessee, Rick attends a boarding school in Florida. Rick makes tremendous gains. Shortly into his second semester, though, there is an accident, and Rick Bodine drowns.
Devastated, Richard and Virginia Bodine do not retreat into grief. Instead, in 1972, they open Tennessee’s first and only school dedicated solely to serving students with dyslexia. It is a sanctuary of light for children too often left in the dark.
The school’s story now leaps forward to 2007. A new student joins Bodine’s 3rd grade class. Erika Yunkun is a model student. Her work ethic is eclipsed only by her compassion for and encouragement of her classmates. Her teacher coins the class mantra, “When in doubt, look at Erika.” Her family is so grateful for the work of Bodine, Erika’s mother agrees to serve as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
In 2011, Erika is diagnosed with a brain tumor and passes away a few months later. Once again, the school is left in shadows.
The story of Bodine School, though, is a story of light.
In late 2012, an anonymous, unsolicited donor contributes the 2nd largest individual gift in school history. The gift is made with only one restriction: it must preserve and honor the memory of Erika Yunkun. Once again, out of darkness, Bodine School finds light.
The Erika Center is a bridge between the life-changing work of Bodine School’s Germantown campus and the tens of thousands of young people in Shelby County desperate for its help. Through teacher training and individual student services, the Erika Center will change the landscape of literacy in our community.