Exceeding the Mark 1

Local pediatrician co-founds mentoring non-profit

It was just a couple of chance conversations but it was enough to inspire two area pediatricians to form Exceeding the Mark, which provides the needed scholastic boost up for children across metro Atlanta. But to Dr. Tiffini Billingsly and Dr. Lynn Gardner, it was not a matter of chance but rather divine intervention.

“We are both devout Christians and we are strong believers that we were led to do this. We were brought together because of our passion. We are doing exactly what God intends us to do,” says Dr. Billingsly, who has an office in Smyrna.

The first “chance” conversation took place on Dr. Billingsly’s last day of residency talking with one of her favorite Emory University faculty members, Dr. Lynn Gardner, about their shared passion for education. Both of them tutored and wanted to become more involved with it despite thriving careers.

One night Dr. Gardner was working in a downtown clinic and had an unusually high number of children with school problems. She thought to herself that these children may need medical help, but they needed educational help as well. She knew they were smart kids, but they just didn’t know how to study.

Again by chance — or was it? — Dr. Billingsly bumped into Dr. Gardner that night and they revised the earlier conversation. Except this time, they decided to do something about it.

Together, they started Exceeding the Mark (ETM), a nonprofit whose goal is to serve “source of empowerment for youth by guiding them to utilize their God-given talents to fulfill their God-given visions.”

Volunteer tutors go into homes throughout metro Atlanta and provide children the individualized attention needed to bring them up to grade level and study skills. They also sponsor monthly speakers who come in and talk about careers, money management, volunteering and developing a professional look. Payment is on a sliding scale.

The pair has developed seven basic programs:

  • Tutoring for Success
  • Parent Focus
  • Healthy Minds
  • Launch to Success
  • Parents to Teachers
  • Faith Building
  • Early Childhood Education

Both women have vibrant practices. Dr. Billingsly heads up Premier Pediatric Associates, a full-service pediatric practice. Dr. Gardner is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Director of the Pediatric Residency Training Program at Emory where she is also Director of Community Pediatrics.

Dr. Gardner sums up the work they have been doing since founding Exceeding the Mark. “Our approach is about creating environments – homes, schools, and communities – that provide children with guidance and resources that help them and their families understand the importance of education in one’s life.” Atlanta is lucky to have these two remarkable women giving back to the community.