Wayfinding in College with Michelle Jones
March 2, 2021
higher education reform

The need for human-centered learning does not stop after high school. For many students, post-secondary learning revolves around a traditional four-year college program. But what about the students who don’t want or fit in the traditional paradigm? Where do they find the program and support needed to develop their own potential?

This week’s guest is revolutionizing higher education with her creation of a two-year, nonprofit community college that seeks to support students in living a life of purpose, through a focus on practical life skills, mentorship programs, and paid internships. Listen in as we explore what’s not working in the higher education system and how to evolve education beyond a traditional four-year college.

About Michelle Jones:

Dr. Michelle D. Jones, founder and Chief Academic Officer of Wayfinding Academy, is on a mission to revolutionize higher education. After years of volunteering with groups and nonprofits to organize for social impact (SuperThank, TEDxMtHood, World Domination Summit) Michelle took a huge leap and founded Wayfinding Academy in June 2014 with a group of like-minded friends and colleagues. With continual progress being made, Michelle and her team are starting to see some ripple effects of change throughout higher education and their community.
When not ruffling the feathers of traditional higher education, Michelle can be found walking the Camino de Santiago with fellow Wayfinders (this summer will be her seventh time!) or relaxing at her tiny home in Portland, Oregon. To learn more about Michelle or the higher education revolution, visit her website or follow her on LinkedIn.

Jump Through the Conversation

  • [5:16] Defining the Wayfinding Academy experience
  • [6:16] The Self and Society Degree: Resilience and identity-based coursework
  • [8:12] Self-knowledge and accountability through mentorship
  • [10:42] Personalizing the post-graduate journey
  • [16:12] Education through life skills and community focus
  • [17:15] Wayfinding’s commitment to anti-racist action
  • [21:39] Free college tuition initiative
  • [27:54] Get to know Michelle: rapid-fire questions
  • [31:36] Michelle’s Magic Wand: creating the space for students to make informed, intentional choices about life’s next step
  • [33:01] My reflections on anti-racism, mentoring, and the value of a “pause”

Links and Resources:

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Transcription

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at education evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education, evolution and the micro school coalition, where we are fiercely Committed to changing the narrative to reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Hi, Michelle, it is great to have you here today.

Michelle Jones
Thank you, Maureen. It is great to be here.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
And listeners today I’m chatting with Michelle Jones, the founder of a college Yes, a college. Her vision after years as a university professor was to create an engaging, relevant post secondary model. So she did. Let’s hear about Wayfinding Academy. Michelle, it takes a crazy kind of person to start any business, especially a school. But a college. I’m just curious, how do folks describe you?

Michelle Jones
Oh, my gosh, you are not the first person to say that it’s a little crazy to do what I did. I think generally speaking people who have responded well, and they think they usually describe me as somebody who is like a first mover somebody who thinks of an idea and gets to it before other people do. I tend to be a fairly action focused person. So while I do a lot of reflecting and thinking on things I tend to take once I feel like I’ve got Okay, this is the next step, I tend to do it. So people tend to describe me as I have one friend who has said that, that he’ll back almost anything I do, because he’s fairly certain that if I set my mind to doing something that it will happen. Even if it sounds like a crazy thing like this. He had been a supporter of several things before this, and is now one of our strongest supporters of this, even though it definitely seems crazy, because I didn’t know anybody who had started at college ever before. So having to figure that out was pretty interesting.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yeah, you’re the first I know of some other people that have started schools like I’m doing but college up really cool. So glad you are doing that. What fuels your passion, because this is really hard work.

Michelle Jones
Yeah, it’s definitely hard work. And a little tiny glimpse behind the scenes. I think this is true for a lot of founders of all kinds of businesses and nonprofits. I’ve spent the vast majority of today, writing grants, not something I’m passionate about, not something I never thought I would be doing, not why I started the college. And there are things like that that have to get done so that the college can function and exist. So times like those, what I do to keep to keep the momentum going, is just remind myself of all of the people who have been part of this journey over the last six years or so, whose lives have been positively impacted by this, who wouldn’t have had the chance to work for an organization like this teach at an organization like this be a student at an organization like this, had it had we not existed. And the theoretical future, all the people who will come in the future because this thing exists. So my role is to do all the things to keep the resources going to keep the thing existing and growing.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Good for you. And I love that piece, you have no idea that people that are gonna stand on your shoulders, because you had the vision and the courage. And there are so many people I meet that have the idea, or that are good at getting stuff done. But that’s a unique combination to reflect and get the idea and take action. It’s kind of usually one or the other. So you are definitely a unicorn.

Michelle Jones
Thank you. And I definitely did not I did not do it on my own. I had an amazing team that helped me get this thing started our founding team and many of whom are still involved in various ways, but none of whom are in the day to day anymore. And I have an amazing team now who takes care of all of the students and does all of the things like that so that I can focus on some of the bigger visioning stuff. So I definitely haven’t done it alone. But I also understand what you’re saying about there has to be Don’t want to be that person to make the thing exist? And then keep it going.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yeah. And to get the team and get the buy in and to have that collaboration. So can you help us picture the Wayfinding experience? What does learning look like?

Michelle Jones
Yeah, it’s an interesting blend, and we’re to your private nonprofit community college. So if you’re imagining a typical traditional college in your mind, we’re we’re more like the small liberal arts kind of college. Except smaller than you imagine, we’re attending tiny college, at the moment, we have 14 students with us in person. And then we have an additional, almost, but not quite that many who’ve been doing online programs with us. During the pandemic, we typically don’t offer online programs. But as many organizations have had to we’ve adapted, and this year, so and that’s been, it’s been a fun experiment to see and figure out how to integrate those people who are remotely learning with us to the people who are in person. But generally, everything is done in person. So we have, it’s a two year program. And at the end, students graduate with a degree in self and society, we’re in the process of adding a second degree program, but that’s a whole conversation for another time.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
I can’t wait.

Michelle Jones
So far, it’s just the self and society program. And what that looks like for the students when they they come and join us. And there are nine core courses that they all take together, and with their cohort mates. And those half of those are focused on self exploration. And half of those are focused on society and what’s going on in the world. And the goal is to try to help students figure out how to put those two things together. And those things you know, I mean, we have a pretty different kind of pedagogy. We have different sorts of faculty, we don’t use tests, or grades or textbooks or anything like that. So we’re very unlike colleges, in many ways. But we are a college. So we do have students and classes and faculty kind of thing. But that’s only half the experience, because the whole goal is that we lean a lot on experiential learning and self directed learning. So students while they take all those classes in common, all of the projects and work they do for the classes, they get to tailor to their own personal passions and experiences and what they want to learn more about. So for example, like literally right now, while we’re talking upstairs, right above me in the classroom, all of our current students, all three current cohorts are in a class called foundations of resilience. And, yeah, it’s our newest course. It’s amazing. And they all get to do projects, where they’re exploring their own identity and what resilience looks like for them. What does resilience look like in a community? What does it look like in a society, and those projects are their own personal interest areas, right. And then all of our students due to internships, so that they’re getting hands on experiential learning in the area, they think they want to work in after Wayfinding. And they all also have a guide who they meet with. This is maybe my favorite part. And one of the most unique things is that they all have all the students have a guide, who they meet with every single week for 45 minutes. And that guide sticks with the students for two years and helps them get the most out of the experience from an academic perspective, but also professional and also personal.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
And then amazing.

Michelle Jones
Yeah, that’s pretty cool. And that they that guide, those relationships are incredible. And that guide helps them find internships, suggest internship connections, and then also helps them we every year, we offer about a dozen workshops on different topics. And the students get to opt into the ones that are most interesting to them. And so the guides help the students decide which ones they want to take and why. And if there’s any. In typical years, we have learned and explore trips where we travel during our breaks. And we had to put those on pause during the pandemic, but it looks like in August, we’ll be taking our usually annual but we had to skip 2020 pilgrimage to walk the Camino de Santiago. And so the students work with their guides to talk about if they want to go on a trip and if so why and what they want to get out of it and that kind of thing. So guides are kind of like accountability partners, reflection partners, that kind of stuff. So that’s, so it’s like a two year process of figuring out who are you at your core and who do you want to be? And what issues and things that are causes in the world do you care deeply about and then what do you want to do with that? And then we we promise every student that when they leave Wayfinding they will know what they want to do next.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Wow. When I think about my first two years of college, and I know it hasn’t changed much in the last number of years. You know, it really He was me being a lot of content being given to me. And I had to do a lot of reading. And I had to pass a lot of tests. But at the end of two years, I was no closer to knowing myself, I just had that liberal arts exposure to Sociology and sciences, and this and that. So self knowledge is something that I don’t think we get very often in, in our US college system, we don’t get the internships unless you do a summer, above and beyond on your own, or other cultures. I mean, even my friends up north in BC have a lot of internships early in college. So you’re really having learning be personalized, and then kids kind of know a direction. What happens after they leave? How does that play out for some of these kids, then?

Michelle Jones
Well, so far, we have 24 alumni, so I can only speak from that, that volume of people. And it’s been a pretty wide range. Our goal as a college is to not not try to make judgments about what they choose to do after college, I personally don’t think everybody needs to go to college to do what they want to do with their life. And that we do high school students and young adults a disservice by constantly treating them like there’s something wrong with them, if they don’t go to college, there’s a lot of paths to get to what you want to do in life, you just have to figure out what you want to do, and then have some good mentorship and advising to figure out what the right path is for you. So it’s no different when our students are getting ready to graduate, we do not believe that they should all go to a four year college after this or start a job after this or start their own business. Like we have no preference stake in the game, whatever, whatever they decide they want to do afterwards, we support them. So so far, some of them have chosen to go on to a four year college because they’ve, what they’ve decided they want to do requires additional education, or they just love learning and they want to continue learning. Some of them have chosen to take kind of like a gap year and travel and explore because maybe they hadn’t done that at all until they came to Wayfinding. And they go on one of our trips, and they realize oh my gosh, travel is a big piece of who I want to be. And so they decide to take some time to do that. Others have started their own business. Others have gotten a job, often from the internship that they had that led them straight into a job that they wanted to have. So it’s been a little bit of everything. So far, the pandemics been weird because my most recent cohort of graduates graduated in summer, July of 2020. And some of them are on their next steps. But we found that a lot of them just had to pause and wait. Yes, kind of like hanging out, they’re still hanging out with you know, they still hang out with us. And they’re engaged with us. But they’re kind of just in a little bit of a waiting. So we’re still in communication, still helping them with next steps as long as it takes to get to their next steps.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Nice. That’s the beauty of community. It’s not like, okay, you’re done by or join our alumni community and start funding us. But it’s like, No, we still care, we’re still here to help. That’s so cool. And I really like what you say about the travel, I think the world is an amazing classroom. And if more kids have more of us period spent more time I got to live in different countries with my daughter’s working in international schools. And it’s just like, Oh, my gosh, my level of empathy, my level of curiosity, my level of humility, it’s like, totally different game in this country. And I don’t know the rules, you know. So I think there’s so much to be learned that make us a better human and make us connect thoughts in a different way from experiencing the world. And then to maybe continue with an education or a business or something with that bigger knowledge is priceless. And I think it can actually help us heal our country right now with all of our division like to understand there’s so many differences and to be able to celebrate that instead of having to dig in on one side of the line or the other. So your solutions makes such good sense. And and another random thought is my girls are in their mid 20s. And some of their buddies are like, you know what, I have this college degree I don’t use I’m in the soul sucking job because I have college debt to pay off. And it’s like is this it really, this is why I wanted to grow up and be an adult and have all this freedom. There are so many people not in their joy and feeling trapped. Because they were told go get a four year degree and don’t worry about the student loan debt or anything. It’ll really set you up for life and they feel cheated.

Michelle Jones
Yeah. And I completely understand that feeling. And I don’t think they’re wrong. I think they were the way that society sets us all up just sends a lot of people down that path. And there are so many so many young adults who feel that way right now. And even like people my age who feel that way. I’m in my mid 40s now and and there’s so many people who I encounter who are about this age who are sort of having Little bit of a pause moment, especially now thinking, Wait, this is this is what this was all leading to, this is not worth it, I, you know, I want to do something different. And part of our mission is to ideally prevent that in the first place by providing this kind of a college education instead. And for the students who go through the Wayfinding experience. I mean, at some point in their life in the future, they will encounter a situation where they’re like, wait a minute, this isn’t exactly where I thought I wanted to be right now, or I’m not quite doing what I want to be doing. And they will have the skills to pause and reflect and to do that work again to say, okay, who am I who do I want to be? Where do I want to go next, and they’ll have the confidence to do that. So our hope is that it’s not just this time in their 20s, that we’re helping them through. But that time that will happen later to I mean, it definitely did for me, I chose to start a college when that happened to me. I don’t recommend that for everybody. But it’s part of life, you know, pausing and saying there’s got to be more than this, right?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yeah. And different than other community colleges that give content, you’re giving life tools, that they will be able to keep pulling back and saying, Okay, at this point in my life, I’m going to reflect I’m going to Xyz and have tools and have practice and life as opposed to having content, which is yesterday’s model.

Michelle Jones
Yes. And, and hopefully also a community of people who they can constantly rely on when they meet those moments, right? So that they can call up their cohort mates from Wayfinding, or the person who was their guide all those years ago, who they’re still in touch with, or me or somebody else on the team who they have a good relationship with, and say, Hey, I’m going through this thing. Can I talk? Because that’s how that’s how life works when done well.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yes, community and leaning on each other, that interdependence. What a gift. I want to know a bit more I saw on your, on your website, that you are specifically addressing anti racism, it seems so much a part of society right now to look at institutional racism and, and white privilege. How are you guys tackling this?

Michelle Jones
Yeah, we, like a lot of organizations in the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, we paused to take a little bit of an inventory on. And the question we asked ourselves is, is, are we doing enough? And if the answer turned out to be no, which it did, and it always does, I don’t know any of us are doing enough? And what should we be doing more of or what should we be doing differently and our team chose, we put out a little bit of a statement of where we’re at in our journey on that. But our team chose primarily to focus on actions. So on our website, what you encountered is probably our list of anti racism, action commitments. And it’s got a list of all the actions we’re taking as an organization. And then each of us committed to doing all of our, our own personal work, whatever that means for us, because we’re all at different points of the journey. And for me, when I founded Wayfinding, I wasn’t looking at it through an anti racism lens, I was trying to based on my experience, both as a student and a grad student, and then as a faculty member in the higher education system, I was trying to do things better. So I was identifying all the things that I thought were not working, and were harming students, especially students of color and first generation students and low income students. And just do it better and not do it the bad ways, but do it in these better ways. I didn’t think about it as being an anti racist approach or a multicultural approach. I just was trying to fix things. So I read this book. It’s a very, very dense book. It’s a challenging read. But it was the only book I could find that it’s called challenging racism in higher education. And it was the only book I could find that was an entire book about racism in higher education specifically, there’s a lot of them about k 12 education or education systems in general, or racism, institutional racism across the board, but higher education, I wanted to dig deep in that. And I found the way that we designed Wayfinding was a fairly multicultural approach. And our foundational setup was set up to do less harm to students, which was great. So I appreciate that we started from that point. And then we had to figure out okay, where are the places where we’re still potentially causing harm, or where we are not doing enough or we could be doing better? So we started, I challenged every member of the team to take a look at their own work in their own department, and come up with a few things Things that they could do that would be better than what we’re doing now. And so one specific example is our Director of experiential learning. She is the internship program coordinator. And one of the things that had been bothering her was that sometimes our students had to take unpaid internships. And I mean, which is what one typically thinks of as an internship, they’re usually unpaid. But she did some research on the inequities of asking, especially low income students, first generation students, students of color to take unpaid internships. And so she’s been working with every internship host to make sure that they’re paying all that all of our internships going forward for all of our students are paid. And wow. And if a host, she has the conversation with them, and if the host says that they won’t pay the intern or can’t pay the intern, she either tries to find, like another source so that they get paid, the student still gets paid by Wayfinding, or by some other, we’re applying for grants and things, or she just won’t place an intern with that host.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
So Wow, that’s huge. Yeah.

Michelle Jones
We’ve been doing all those things. And the biggest thing we’ve done, which is the thing that I mean, that’s the thing all colleges should do if they require students to do internships, I feel

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yes, yes.

Michelle Jones
And the other thing, the thing that just happened, we just had a local publication, our OPB, which is our Oregon version of National Public Radio, they just did a story on us that came out yesterday about our free tuition initiative. So one of the bigger splash year things that we’ve done is Wayfinding is now free, for any black or Native American indigenous Oregonian. So and that’s been my own personal work on my journey is to learn more about reparations, and restitution and the black white wealth gap and how college debt plays into that. And what we can do to try to certainly not be part of that problem. But also if we can be part of the solution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
I’m just getting shivers, my goodness, talk about reparation and modeling that wow, free tuition for college. That’s, that’s so inspirational. Michelle.

Michelle Jones
Yeah, it’s the right thing to do. So other colleges will start doing it, too.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yeah, you’re setting the example, in so many ways. And I have to ask you about that. Because I just think that changing the system while working within it is daunting. And I’m trying to do that in the sixth or 12th grade system. What do you find is your biggest struggle?

Michelle Jones
Oh, my gosh, there’s so many, it is very strange. To do what we’re doing, we do have to intersect with several large bureaucratic organizations that tolerate us, I guess, in some cases, they actually are fans of ours, and are trying to promote what we’re doing and encourage other organizations in their sphere to do similar things. And so I think the hardest things are encountering the general mindset of like, well, that we can’t do it that way. Because that’s not how it’s done.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yes.

Michelle Jones
Which happens a lot. I have found, though, that my most successful next step when I encounter that, is to just have a conversation about usually I try to go for the like, Okay, well, if you could change it, what would you change it to? What would you What do you wish was done differently? and get them to start thinking about that, and then often, they can identify some things that they think they would do differently, and that they think they could do differently? Or we could do differently. And so I found that once we get into a partnership situation, even the most bureaucratic organizations find that space to say, Okay, well, if you did it this way, or that way, then we can get around that. I mean, this is a very small example, and was not a deal breaker. But when I set up Wayfinding, I wanted us to be in a trimester system, because I wanted long breaks between our terms, so that we could take these learning explore travel trips, and so that students had that opportunity. And not just for a week, but for like three weeks. So I wanted to trimester system. Well, the state of Oregon doesn’t have we have quarters, and we have semesters, we don’t in some states, they have trimester options, but not in Oregon. So the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating commission said, Well, we don’t have that. And I said, Okay, I can, that’s fine. We can figure something else out. Here’s what I’m aiming for, what do you recommend? And they said, Hmm, why don’t you just make them quarters, but only have three of them and make them as long as a quarter can possibly be. And so we did that. They found a way for me to check this box on their form in a way that’s consistent with their regulations and what they needed from me, but that also allowed me to achieve what I was trying to achieve. So and it just Took some conversation.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Very cool, nice job finding the middle ground on that.

Michelle Jones
Yeah, that worked out well.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
So what do you think is next for you and your mission?

Michelle Jones
Gosh, Well, okay, we, as I’m hinted at, we are starting a second program. Yeah. Our, our staff and our board both independently decided that they thought this was a good next step for us. So we haven’t named it or anything yet, we know it’s going to focus on social justice and equity and liberation and alternative models of economics and housing, and food security and things like that. So it’s something along the lines of equitable futures, something like this. So we’re working on that we’re starting to put some first steps in place with designing that. And we hope in about a year and a half to have our first students enrolled in that. So that’s our next big step. And we’re going through regional accreditation right now, which is a goal.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
That’s always. Yeah, it’s always a big undertaking, but then you have that outside stamp of approval that a lot of people value.

Michelle Jones
Yep. And there’s it as the going through the process requires us to polish up some of our our things that we all know internally that this is how this system works. But we haven’t had to put that down on paper yet, or we have put it on paper. But it’s been outdated for a couple of years. So it’s a nice, like, tidying up process as well. So it’s fine. It’s just a lot of, you know, work and paperwork in particular.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yeah, not necessarily our favorite thing is that

Michelle Jones
no, no, not when your mission is to try to like change the higher education system. But part of that is getting that stamp of approval and saying no, this is a legitimate model of of higher education as well. So if we can do this and be accredited doing it, so can you.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yes. Oh, you’re totally trailblazing. Keep in mind, if you ever have any interns that want to do any work with Seattle age, high school aged kiddos, what you’re doing is so cool, and the direction that we’re also aspiring and, and constantly moving more toward, so I’d love for our kids to be influenced. And I also would love for them to see what you’re doing is they’re looking toward what they want for college, because a lot of them are like, I want to be ready to go to any four year college. And so we’ll put them in a dual enrollment English 101. So they get a sense. And others like no, I want to go to something non traditional cohort model. I’m going to seek out those other things because I don’t value the hours of content and the hours of homework so definitely want to keep connected and get our kids connected our staff.

Michelle Jones
Yeah, that would be great.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Rapid Fire turbo time I stole this from Andrew Marotta, when he interviewed me a bit ago. I just love it because it’s snapshots. So rapid fire. I’m just gonna give you some questions. What’s the last book you read?

Michelle Jones
I just finished over the weekend How To Be an Anti Racist by ibram x Kendi.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
I loved that book and how humble it wasn’t. I didn’t feel defeated. I felt like we were in it together loved that book, and favorite place to travel.

Michelle Jones
Oh, any remote island with not very many people.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Ah, yes. One TED talk that inspires you.

Michelle Jones
Oh, okay. I’m gonna cheat Just a little. The obvious answer is Sir Ken Robinson’s how schools kill creativity. Yes, but the other one. So I’ve also been a TEDx organizer for about 11 years now. And a few years ago, one of our TEDx Mount Hood speakers, Gregory mcilvain, II gave a talk on why protest matters. And I rewatched that recently. And yeah, definitely check that out. If you’re interested in social justice movements, and how protest plays a role in that

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Loving all these cool things that you’re suggesting will go in our show notes so that the listeners can find them easily, too. That is great. Biggest thing you wish folks knew about student life after high school.

Michelle Jones
We probably talked about it already. Just that idea that there’s a lot of different paths to get to where you want to go. And the most important first step in my opinion, is to figure out where you want to go.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yes, I get kids like, I guess I’ll go to the U dub cuz that’s where my cousin is, you know, and it’s like, what do you want to do? Well, I think I want to work with animals. Well, do they have a good program with animals? Well, I don’t know. It’s like, Oh my gosh, you’re spending 1000s and 1000s and 1000s plus years of your life and yes, what do you want to do? Where do you know? What’s the thing if you don’t know where you’re going? Any path will get you there? Something’s like right.

Oh, no, I’m best morning routine tip.

Michelle Jones
Eat the same thing for breakfast every day. So that you don’t have to think about that.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
I actually ascribed to that I thought It’s like mind is automatic so I can focus on creating in the mornings before school starts.

Michelle Jones
Yeah, same actions

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Good for you love it. Favorite thing about Oregon State.

Michelle Jones
I’ve been living here for now 11 years. And I the access to nature. It’s it’s everywhere. Like I can literally walk out the front door of Wayfinding cross the St. Johns bridge and I’m in Forest Park, the largest urban park in the country. I love it.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
I do to Oregon. It’s stunning. The Northwest in the Washington West Coast is pretty cool, too. Something positive that has come out of this COVID pandemic time. Hmm.

Michelle Jones
More time for reflection.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yeah. Something that people may not know about you.

Michelle Jones
This is about to change soon, because I am starting to publish more personal writings on I have a medium account. Okay, so I’m starting to share more personal things. Most of the time, I just talked about Wayfinding. But the first article, for example was how I live in a tiny house. And I have lived in a tiny house for for almost 11 years. So a lot of people until a couple weeks ago, a lot of people did not know that about me.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Love it, and I’m jealous. The idea of no clutter something small. Very cool. Um, final question. If you have had and I love ending with this, is this aspirational? If you had a magic wand? What would you wish for all of our young adults after high school and assuming that every one of them gets through high school and is ready for what’s next? which sadly isn’t the case. But what would you wish after high school for every 18 year old 19 year old?

Michelle Jones
I would wish that they could take a little pause and a pause where they’re supported by or they’re surrounded by a supportive community. And people are giving them that space to pause and reflect and breathe so that they can make an informed intentional choice about what they want to do next.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
informed. Yes, intentional. And choice. I think some kids don’t feel like they have a choice.

Michelle Jones
Right? I agree.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Yeah. Wow. Michelle, what you’re doing is amazing. And good luck on rolling out this second program and on the accreditation process. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Michelle Jones
Oh, thank you so much, Maureen. It’s been my pleasure.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy
Wow, I could unpack Michelle’s comments for hours. Her vision is so exciting and relevant. Let me focus on three parts. The first antiracist actions. I wonder what if every organization in school asked, what should we be doing more of or doing differently, and then made action commitments at a personal and institutional level? We would have so much more reparation and healing. Yes, please. I’m bringing this challenge to my micro school team and board the second long term community. The idea of a 45 minute weekly connection with a mentor versus a typical once or twice a year meeting with a college advisor who doesn’t know me at all, is empowering. I know big schools can’t build in this type of relationship. So breaking into smaller groups at the college level will be needed to evolve to such a personalized level. But then there will be a lasting village of support for our learners to rely on as they move through the world. Long term community what a gift. Finally, the third is Michelle’s magic wand, who says every 18 year old should either give up and get a job or dive into a four year college experience. What if we created time in high school for students to grapple with their passions and purpose and gain a sense of direction to try out some internships and then encouraged them to take pause, surrounded by supportive adults to create an informed intentional, next step. World travel service work and internship a job so much could go into informing that decision and making it purposeful and aligned with passions to be a career that is life giving. Michelle you are on to So many great ways to foster thoughtful young adults that go out and contribute in our world. Here’s to you and Wayfinding Academy. Thank you for your interview.

I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit education evolution.org backslash consult for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit. For more work together.

Education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today.

I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now before you forget. I really appreciate it.

Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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