“A mind that has been stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions." -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
At Empower, students are expected to grow and develop into strong leaders who advocate for their community. There is no better way to grow as a leader than through experience. We believe schools need to offer learning experiences so real and inspiring that students want to think critically and challenge themselves. We believe that students shouldn't have to wait until after graduation to change the world. Why? Because our world needs students' genius today. Yes, students, you matter. Your thoughts matter. Your actions matter.
Earlier this month, student leaders from Empower's Community Design Team were invited to present at the Leading Educator showcase in the world's leading education and workforce innovation summit, ASU GSV. Devina, Dajia, and Christiana, were the only students invited to present at the 2019 ASU GSV Summit which hosted over 5,000 attendees from more than 45 countries. This trip is a great example of the kinds of leadership development opportunities Empower offers to students.
ASU GSV Summit was in San Diego, California so all three student presenters got the chance to see the ocean for the first time! Check out the beautiful view from the elevator of our hotel:
We believe that part what makes experiences like these so powerful is the chance to see and explore a new city. As always, we spent time having fun in San Diego before the serious work began! Before we hit the boardwalk and enjoyed a California sunset, we explored Balboa Park and visited its organ pavilion, Japanese Friendship Garden, Botanical Garden, and the World Famous San Diego Zoo.
Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time for the students to present! Their pitch during ASU GSV's Leading Educator Showcase was called "When Educators Move Out of the Way: The Power of Student-Led Learning." Christiana and Dajia, student founders of The Mardale Jay Writing Center, shared their experience building a student-centered space to break down traditional classroom hierarchies. Christiana explained, "We wanted to show students education is more than sitting in a classroom for 8 hours. Writing is more than a grade and just writing an essay and turning it in." Devina shared lessons learned from co-creating Empower, a school where students can internalize education as a practice of freedom.
Dajia concluded the pitch with one of her mic-drop moments, "Teachers should stop being scared and let students take over their education because when they do take over, it's scary... but it's scary good. If we start doing that, students will be involved in more conversations like this. They won't just be in the videos, they will be filling up these rooms."
Fun fact: Dajia (student founder of MJWC) and Devina (founding student at Empower) are actually sisters! There is no substitute for the power of love, family, and legacy in our pursuit of freedom. Like Devina put it during the pitch: "Being a little sister, you're always looking up to your older sister. It was really inspiring getting to see my sister do all the things she was doing as a founder of the Writing Center...it was life-changing. It really made me open my eyes at a young age to the worth of education."
Whose world is this? At Empower, there's only answer to that question: "The world is ours." You've got to see the world to believe that. We are looking forward to more powerful trips with our founding class of 9th graders.
Next up, we are heading to visit the nation's first student-led private high school, One Stone!