Why Relationships Were Great College Prep with Bella and Journey
June 22, 2021
Why Relationships Were Great College Prep with Bella and Journey

Traditional high schools aren’t set up to prioritize teen mental health. And how could they? Seemingly bigger concerns—bigger class size, bigger operations, bigger emphasis on textbooks and homework—means that student well-being takes a backseat. Educators aren’t allowed the bandwidth to engage with each student on a deeply relational level.

Today on the podcast, we’re learning why it’s so important that they do—directly from students themselves. My guests are Bella Christian and Journey Morrison, two recent graduates of my micro-school, LEADPrep. We’ll hear their firsthand perspective on how caring, collaborative relationships with teachers and peers positively impacted their mental health, personal growth, and academic success.

Bella and Journey share how they’ve gone on to thrive in college as a direct result of the interpersonal skills and confidence they gained in the close-knit, project-based learning environment of a micro-school.


About Bella Christian and Journey Morrison:

Bella attended LEADPrep for two years and graduated in 2019. She recently completed her associate degree and is planning to continue with college after first taking a year off to travel and work. She’s passionate about psychology and videography and hopes to pursue one or both of those subjects in the future. A fun fact about Bella is that she enjoys writing music.

Journey also graduated in the Class of 2019, having attended LEADPrep for two years. He’s completed two years of college and this is his third summer teaching at digital media and filmmaking camp for middle school and high school students. He recently changed his major to history from communications but is hoping to meld both of those areas of interest by pursuing documentary film. Journey is crazy about Mango, his adopted leopard gecko.


Jump Through the Conversation

  • [1:45] Bella’s mental health struggles at public school until she got to LEADPrep
  • [2:43] Journey felt lost in the crowd in a traditional high school setting
  • [6:33] Bella: Positive relationships with teachers lead to positive academic outcomes
  • [7:53] Stephen Covey’s concept of “emotional bank accounts” applies to teacher-student relationships
  • [11:53] Addressing students’ and parents’ subconscious resistance to micro-schooling
  • [14:45] Journey: Personal growth happens when you approach the unfamiliar
  • [20:28] The best piece of advice for college students
  • [23:55] What students want us to know about teen mental health
  • [29:01] Journey’s Magic Wand: An environment free of judgment, where every student who’s struggling is able to articulate their need for help and receive it
  • [29:35] Bella’s Magic Wand: For more understanding, caring, and communication amongst student peers and adults 
  • [30:34] Maureen’s Take-Aways


Links and Resources:

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Android. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show.



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.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:50  

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?


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:07  

Hi, Bella and Journey. It is so good to have you both here today.


Journey Morrison  1:11  

Thanks for having us.


Bella Christian  1:12  

So good. Yeah, thanks for having us here.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  1:15  

And listeners, today I’m chatting with Journey Morrison and Bella Christian, who graduated from lead prep micro school in 2019. Now that they have two years of college under their belts, I wanted to hear their perspectives on the importance of prioritizing the human and relational aspects of high school. So let’s dive in. You both joined us for your last two years of high school. Bella, would you please share your high school experience before and then at lead prep?


Bella Christian  1:49  

I would say that at public school, I struggled with the teachers and their lack of understanding with my mental health and the homework. And I didn’t feel like I fit in with the kids there. And it was just a constant struggle every day. Versus being at Lead Prep, I felt like I was constantly included. I felt welcomed the minute that I came to the school and the teachers never failed to make me feel loved and appreciated. And I felt like I was really thriving there with classes and with the social aspect as well.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  2:26  

And I have to tell on you. I can remember you visited one day and you showed up this this following day ready to start. I was like, oh, okay, and I didn’t get your mom’s email until an hour or two later I was like, Okay, I guess we have a new student! It was wonderful. Journey, how about you?


Journey Morrison  2:45  

I think going to school in the Snoqualmie Valley, and then going to Lead Prep, like the biggest adjustment was I kind of got lost. And I felt like I wasn’t really seen in a public high school with I think my classes were like 200 to 300 people. And I didn’t really feel like I had an identity. So it was pretty easy for me to slip through the cracks and you know, fall behind on work. There’s a lack of accountability.


Journey Morrison  3:04  

And then flip that, Lead Prep, where you’re in a class of you know, four or five people, it’s pretty hard to slip through the cracks. In a really good way, I felt like it not only helped me be more accountable workwise. But as a person, it really helped me mature and grow, you know, and develop. I really developed a relationship with a lot of my teachers that made me work harder, whether I meant for it to or not, you know, it’s like, I felt like I had a relationship with this person to my classmates, and they cared about me and I wanted to do good for my own sake, not just to get a good grade.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  3:29  

I love that. And you know, those relationships are equally important to our teachers and all of the teachers that you two had are back again next year, unless they retired. You know, it really matters to them to get to be employed in a place where they get to have that heart to heart connection to so it’s a highlight for our teachers as well. Just saying.


Bella Christian  3:51  

Of course.


Journey Morrison  3:52  

Good to hear.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  3:54  

Working on framing my thoughts using polarity thinking, you know. Like inhaling and exhaling are both parts of breathing, you know, and how we can get to instead of us them, you know that divisiveness. I want to focus on how all schools can put students emotional well being as a priority. So Journey, I remember you did a civics project creating mental health changes that you’d like to see in schools. Can you share your project with the need and your suggestion?


Journey Morrison  4:27  

Yeah, so I came from a school that really, from the Seattle area, not to name drop school, but there was a lot of you know, mental health issues in the community that affected not only like myself and my friends, but just people that I saw around the community. And my civics class at Lead Prep called for a change for a better mental health program that was pitched forward to the staff members of the school board that really focused on like meeting students’ needs specifically. And it was really focused on hitting a lot of those like really, really difficult conversation pieces regarding mental health. So you know, depression, like dark thoughts, substance abuse and stuff that are things that like, ideally you wouldn’t talk about in high school. But it felt like because of that it was kind of avoided. So it really focused on, you know, every- I think that every year, we wanted to have you know, in our health class have a unit on mental health that was at least a few weeks long, to really, really focus on addressing those issues that are common with a lot of people. And you know, diving into it, and not just addressing it and talking about it and bringing attention to it, but working to have teachers that have training nowhere to refer these students. And then the students themselves have a toolkit that they can use for themselves and their peers.


Journey Morrison  5:31  

And I think that is something that is becoming, I’ve noticed, just since I’ve graduated, like becoming more common is talking about mental health. So I was super happy with that. I know that the high school that I went to, I have a younger sibling who goes there, has actually improved those policies and as addressed a few of those things. So that was pretty cool. They didn’t do exactly the program that I wanted. But talking to their board and stuff, it seems like did have some kind of impact, which is awesome.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  5:52  

Oh my gosh, yeah, talk about design thinking and creating and having an audience and having results. That’s, that’s so powerful, good for you. And I love the idea of toolkits, we want to make sure every student knows how to use the planner, how to take notes, there’s so many tools we want to make sure students have before they graduate. And that toolkit should definitely include mental health. And because it doesn’t fall into a subject area, I think it’s been trickier to make that happen.


Journey Morrison  6:21  



Maureen O’Shaughnessy  6:22  

Bella, you were bright, and came to us with good grades, and you’re rocking college. What did you need beyond academics to make high school work for you?


Bella Christian  6:34  

I feel like the outcome of my grades actually has a lot to do with my relationship with the teachers. I’ve noticed this at public school, it’s a lot harder to have that connection with the teacher because of course, there’s so many kids. And you know, you do get those teachers once in a while, in public school, who pay close attention to you and help you through what you need. But I really think having a great relationship with your teacher comes out- it shows through your grades and it shows throughout your assignments.


Bella Christian  6:59  

And I’ve noticed this in college too, because I’ve met some wonderful professors. And the closer I am with them or the more they get to know me, the better I do in their class. And I always try and make a point of introducing myself on the first day so that we get to know each other and they know who I am among those who face and in, you know, the 40 or so kids they have in their class. And I’ve noticed that this is very helpful for my assignments as well. It definitely shows


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  7:25  

I love that and that relationship piece that you valued in high school, you create in college by reaching out to your professors and back in office hours or whatever.


Bella Christian  7:35  

Yeah and then in that case, they’re also more understanding if they know they have that relationship with you. They’re understanding if you say, Hey, I’m you know, I’m not doing so well or I have a family emergency or whatnot, you know. They’re a lot more lenient on giving you extra time or helping you through something you might, you might be struggling with. Something like that.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  7:53  

Absolutely. Stephen Covey is a brilliant person that talks about how to be super effective. And he calls them emotional bank accounts. And when we put in those deposits, taking time to get to know professors or teachers, then when you need to take out a withdrawal, like, Oh, my gosh, I missed this deadline, could I have an extension, you have money in your account. So you’re putting in deposits in that emotional bank account. And that’s always going to help you on life beyond college, too, so good for you.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  8:22  

I have so many great memories from getting to go with a group of you and your mom, Bella, to help build a school in Nicaragua. And our Friday service projects were a lot of fun. What role do you to think organized service has in our schools, and should it be a priority?


Journey Morrison  8:40  

I mean, obviously, you have good impacts for the community, and like wherever you’re helping out. But it also creates a sense of community beyond just education. It’s kind of the same thing with social aspect of having fewer students is it’s almost like a smaller family. But working together on these projects that aren’t necessarily about your school or for your school and learning about like different groups from different walks of life and doing service. I think it’s really enriching personally, socially, and gives you like a broader worldview. And it’s also an activity that you’re doing with your classmates. So that again, that’s like that extra level of family bonding.


Bella Christian  9:14  

Yeah, I definitely think that trip was so wonderful for building relationships with not only you know, your peers that you already have with in the school, but also with you know, new people and meeting new groups of people. And it’s like a whole different environment. And I thought it was such an amazing trip. And we all became so close on that trip as well. And then when we came back, we had all these memories to share with everyone else. And even memories we still talk about today and pictures we still have. We send each other once in a while. I remember this when this happened, and it was it was a wonderful trip. Definitely a favorite of mine, that’s for sure.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  9:50  

Love it. Journey your projects and work with our filmmaking teacher built a strong relationship. How has that gone beyond the classroom to impact you?


Journey Morrison  10:03  

So the educator that I worked with was a teacher, I think just the first year that I was there. And him and his wife were teaching filmmaking. And they were talking about, they had a summer camp where they do teaching, like digital media to youth, middle school and high school. And I thought that was super awesome. As I was talking to, you know, talking about this, and then they were like, Hey, we have an internship opportunity, if you’re not doing anything for the summer. And I think I was, I think I was 16 at the time. It was the summertime before my junior year. And I was like, okay, you know, I’d been at the school for like, a few months when this offer came up, you know, the summers far away, whatever.


Journey Morrison  10:37  

So I stuck with it. And I ended up loving it. And it is just fantastic working with youth. And here we are. Three years later, I’m actually getting ready, I’ll be back in three weeks come back to teach for this summer as well. So still middle school and high school filmmaking camps. But that really was an important relationship that I’ve formed. I want to say, Travis, who was the teacher that brought me in, just did a really, really good job in the classroom of making me feel engaged in the work doing film projects and stuff is really fun. But there was this layer of like, having a purpose, and like making a cool video to deliver a message. Because you know, you’re young, you want to make change in the world, sometimes people might not take you too seriously. But if you can throw together a well produced video, like narration, it looks nice, and it’s like five minutes long, and it nails your points with good visual aids, you can have a huge audience and much more impact than you would otherwise. So it’s just been a really, really cool experience.


Journey Morrison  11:26  

And you know, we work with probably like 40 kids or so a summer. And it is just so cool to see people grow and go out and make changes in their communities and see the directions that people go with that. So I would say like, that was one of the biggest things about, you know, my experience at Lead Prep was moving forward and making those connections, but then, you know, kind of giving back in a way, if that makes sense? Giving those like digital media tools to other students who you know, now that I’ve graduate stuff, so it’s definitely been really awesome.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  11:52  

Nice. Yeah. You guys, I’m wondering, I’m really studying a lot of neuroscience and how our brain works and so much is unconscious or subconscious. You know, it has to be and I’m sure you know this, like, now when you’re driving you pretty much like yeah, a lot of it’s on autopilot. When you first started, it was like, Okay, my hands, alright, position and everything. It’s all in your conscious level, and it’s exhausting. And pretty soon things go to the subconscious.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  12:19  

Well, when families are looking for a school, and maybe something’s not going right, in a bigger school, so much is going on subconsciously. And like students, there’s a lot going on, like what will my friends think? And it’s small and, and I won’t be able to hide from teachers, there’s so much going on, even if they’re in a place where they’re not thriving, and maybe they’re not passing or they’re being bullied or something. What would you say to students just to kind of help them, take a breath and maybe consider going against all the subconscious messages that are saying this is dangerous, this is unknown.


Bella Christian  12:58  

I would say that, of course, I had same thoughts. I was very nervous to go to a new school and a very different school at that. You know, I’ve always been in public schools and with a large environment, and lots of teachers and whatnot. And I think they definitely had some of the same thoughts.


Bella Christian  13:21  

I would say what helped me the most kind of push myself in that direction, though, was trying out the school, going that first day, and meeting some wonderful kids who reminded me that it’s okay to try new things and meet new people. And this really helped and then meeting new teachers as well, and just kind of getting a feel for what the school was about. And I think personally, it was pretty immediate, my comfort there. I think that I knew that I just knew immediately that this was the school for me, because I thought about how, for example, the morning check ins. That was the first thing that got me on board. It was the fact that teachers actually cared to ask how you’re doing in the morning, like, you know, giving yourself a check in and making sure that you’re okay to go on with the day, you know, letting everyone else know how you’re doing so that they don’t bug you or push you too far that day.


Bella Christian  14:15  

So personally, I think it was pretty immediate. But I think that if I were to tell other students, you know, just to give yourself a step back and and understand that it’s okay to try something new and maybe look. Kind of weigh the pros and cons a bit more, especially if your mental health is not thriving in a public school or your assignments aren’t doing so well. I guess maybe look at the brighter side of trying something new trying it out for a couple of days meeting new people meeting new teachers and giving yourself a chance to thrive in a different environment.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  14:45  



Journey Morrison  14:47  

Yeah, I think that was a really good way to put it was the like, weighing in on yourself. You know, not a really good point of like, I want to hang out with my friends, right? Maybe I don’t care too much about school. You know, then you start to struggle. And you hit this point where it’s like you’re looking at alternatives. And you know, when you’re looking at alternatives, there’s a little voice in the back of your head that’s like, Hey, this is new, this is scary. But in a way, that’s like some of the biggest growth that you can experience as a person, I think.


Journey Morrison  15:14  

I mean, when I ended up going to Lead Prep, it was about like, 45 minutes away from home, like far away from any of my friends. I was just so worried I was gonna be like a hermit. I’m pretty extroverted person, I was scared, you know. I was like, I’m not going to meet new people. And then I met some of the most wonderful people that I’m still friends with to this day, like, Bella. You know, she’s talking about sending each other memories and stuff of a trip that we end up going on at this school that I was like, not so sure if I wanted to do.


Journey Morrison  15:36  

And the biggest thing too, is, like Bella mentioned, as well as looking after yourself, right? It’s like, maybe I feel okay, at a public school, but I’m doing poorly. It’s like, you need to evaluate Do you want to just be okay, and then suffering get through with like, C’s and D’s? Or do you want to really focus on improving yourself, your academics and you know, stepping out of your comfort zone for an opportunity of growth? And so I would say to that person, do it. I mean, everyone has different reasons. But no matter what it is, I guarantee you, it’ll be a positive experience.


Bella Christian  16:06  

Also, if the child is worried about not seeing their friends, it’s not like this, this school isn’t like more than average hours, you know. You still have time on the weekends, you still have time after school. And of course, there’s not that much homework. So you still have that the old social aspect, and then you have new people that you can also spend time with. So it’s not like you, you’re never gonna see your friends, again. You’re still gonna probably be at home, you know, with your family and whatnot. You have plenty of extra time. And so that won’t go away. That’s just it’s just taking care of your mental health and your grades and, you know, looking out for your future.


Journey Morrison  16:38  

That was the big thing was it really like expands your social circle, if anything.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  16:43  

Love it. Yes. So thinking about how our subconscious works with our parents, our subconscious knows we need to be in a herd, when you break off from the herd, you know, that’s when the saber tooth tiger is going to get your whatever. So the herd says, you need to go to a traditional high school and something familiar, like what I had, and have hours of homework so that you’re ready for a traditional college, where you’re doing lots of reading and writing and homework and a lot of listening to lectures, and then a lot of paperwork on your own. Or how can you go to a place like Lead Prep, and do project based learning and design your own projects and focus more in relationships and on interaction than group projects and getting along with each other, and be college ready? I love what you’re doing, but my kid has to be ready for college.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  17:33  

Well, you guys are both, you’re two years through college. What would you tell these parents that, Yes, I want the mental health and I want the less pressure. But I just can’t see how you can get my kids ready for college? What would you say to help them?


Bella Christian  17:49  

I think honestly, if you practice asking for help, and staying on top, like organizing all of your assignments, staying on top of your assignments, and making sure to ask for help from your peers from your teachers, then you would do fine in college. I think that doing project based learning throughout high school is just better for your future. I think that it takes a lot of stress out of your day out of your week, and really helps expand your mind. And I think that a great way to prepare for college though would definitely be asking your teachers for help if you need it, kind of expanding your maybe getting out of your comfort zone with that one, because I know that I had trouble with that.


Bella Christian  18:30  

But honestly, it’s really hard to get through college if you don’t ask for help. And also study groups are really great as well. I think I’ve really excelled. I don’t think I could have gone through some of my classes without having a really great study group, you know, having a few friends here and there from the class like, Hey, did you understand this question? I’m really confused. I would really love some help, or do you have the reading from last night? Whatnot. Yeah.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  18:54  



Journey Morrison  18:55  

Yeah, I think what Bella said is spot on the like asking for help and working with other people. I mean, in a Micro-school or, you know, private school environment where you have less people like we were talking about falling through the cracks is not as easy. And as a result of that, like, you really start to build your own identity, even if you are an introverted person. And I think it’s like confidence building to to have a relationship with your teacher, and you mess up and they’re like, hey, let’s go through this together.


Journey Morrison  19:18  

For me, when I was previously in public high school, I was not comfortable asking for help. Time in a micro-school, kind of have to ask for help. Come back to a college where you have an auditorium and like 150 people, and suddenly you’re like, I don’t understand, and you raise your hand and then you’re like, Oh, I’m raising my hand in front of 150 people suddenly asking for help, and almost accidentally. So I definitely think like, you know, once you meet the professor, and or your teacher, whoever and you establish who you are like below saying that she’s done. They know who you are. And then you’re just talking to him and there happened to be 150 other people there and that change alone, like can really get you a lot of academic success, I think because I mean, then you’re you know, you’re invested in it more. So I think those relationships are key.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  19:57  

Love it and you get a lot of practice that relationship. When you’re doing group projects and when you’re in a small school and I also like is in our senior send often up on that up in Seattle when we were having a day with you guys. I remember Gianna saying you guys meet your profs know your profs, and that you guys have remembered that and listened and made sure that you forge those relationships. It sounds so easy, but there are so many students that never meet their profs. You guys are going that extra mile, it sounds like it’s really paying off.


Journey Morrison  20:31  

I think that is probably the single piece of advice that has made life easier. Like that, I noticed a simple thing. But I think Bella, you can agree, like just meeting your professor and be like, Hi, I’m Journey, or Hi, I’m Bella, you know, whatever your name is inserted. It’s like they know who you are. And from then on, it’s just easier.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  20:47  

Yeah. And you had so much practice hanging out with teachers, connecting with teachers, and realizing they’re not so scary. I’ve had some pretty cool people on my podcast. And at first, I was like gulp. And now it’s kinda like, okay. So I get it, the more you do it, the easier it gets so good on both of you. What’s next? What’s the I mean, you guys have two years of college under your belt. What are your plans?


Journey Morrison  21:13  

Okay, I’ll go first, I had a little bit of a shift in my major. I was gonna go into communications. Now I’ve decided on history, and looking specifically into more working on documentary film. And, you know, using that as a medium, kind of, like I’ve done with, you know, the digital media stuff, use it as a tool to connect people and then shed light on the past and talk to some academic advisors on Hey, history is the route we want to go.


Journey Morrison  21:35  

So I’m actually submitting my application for that, this upcoming weekend, and feeling good about it. But yes, then that’ll be about two more years. And then I’m hoping to continue, you know, the film stuff. I think that film is great, who doesn’t love watching movies? And I was like, hey, that’s something that I want to do to bring people together. So I found a way to kind of, you know, merge communications, put it into history, and it’s just really awesome.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  21:57  

Brilliant. Absolutely. It’s definitely a form of communication. Sounds great. Thanks.


Bella Christian  22:03  

I would say I’m kind of on the I don’t know part. But I for right now I’m finishing off my a degree. And then I’m taking a year off. And I’m focusing on traveling and working and saving up to move out. And then I’m hoping to go back to university the year after that, I just would like the COVID situation to cool down a bit so that I can actually be in classes instead of just online. And I’m looking to go to Hawaii, most likely if I do continue with university and I’ll either be focusing on videography as well and or psychology or maybe a bit of both. I really love those subjects. I’ve always been super interested in them. And there’s quite a bit you can do with those degrees. So yeah, I’m super excited. I’m not completely sure. But I’m very excited to see what the my path has chosen for me.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  22:54  

Yeah, and no surprise that going back to Hawaii and also doing travel, I know you’ve done a lot of travel that no surprise that that’s what the future may hold for you. Yes, definitely. Let’s get to know you both a little better now with some turbo time questions. So I’ll just fire up the question you guys can both answer. So who’s an inspirational person or character you’d love to meet?


Journey Morrison  23:21  

Jack Black.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  23:25  

What did you say Bella?


Bella Christian  23:26  

Selena Gomez.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  23:27  

Ah, awesome.


Journey Morrison  23:29  

Oh, yeah.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  23:29  

What are a few traits you appreciate in teachers or professors?


Journey Morrison  23:34  

I would say availability, accessibility, and just putting in the effort to show that you are available and accessible.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  23:43  



Bella Christian  23:45  

Definitely understanding, kindness, and humor.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  23:49  

Yes. What’s the biggest thing you wish folks knew about teen mental health and wellness?


Journey Morrison  23:57  

I would say I put this into two categories. Teens, I would say, Listen to me, you are not alone. There are other people experiencing what you’re experiencing. And there are resources set aside that are there to help you.


Journey Morrison  24:08  

Parents, teachers and educators, I would say don’t invalidate your teens feelings just because they’re young. A lot of people think that because they’re young and don’t have to, you know, don’t have a lot of adult stress. They don’t have anything to be depressed about. But mental illness doesn’t discriminate.


Bella Christian  24:21  

Yes. Yeah, I was. I would say that sometimes we don’t actually know what’s wrong or what we need. But it’s nice to just, I guess, ask and sometimes it’s nice to just feel heard by adults for sure.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  24:36  

Absolutely. Yeah. I think all of us as humans sometimes can’t exactly identify it. Yeah. What’s a pet peeve of yours in schools or college?


Bella Christian  24:47  

Lack of understanding from teachers or professors. It can be very frustrating if they don’t understand your schedule, or maybe you just need help and they’re not quite understanding your question or they don’t care enough to understand your question. Also, I think the social aspect, it can be a little frustrating and honestly distracting if peers are judgmental or, you know, mean or cruel, but like can be very frustrating and make it a lot harder to focus on your studies.


Journey Morrison  25:16  

As I’ve said, a similar thing, so social pressure. And also, I’m sure a lot of people feel this, but online learning at the moment and the extended period of time with no face to face interaction. But that’s more specific for the past student year that we’ve had.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  25:30  

Yeah, what a year. What’s one passion you bring to how you show up?


Journey Morrison  25:36  

I think I interpret this as something that I bring to the table. I think that I am hardworking, when I care about something, and I kind of struggle with something that I’m not super passionate about. So I try to put my passion towards things that I enjoy.


Bella Christian  25:52  

Smart. I think I’m very great at communicating, and working well with others, staying focused, if I’m motivated and understand the subject. And actually, I’m interested in the subject as well.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  26:08  

Nice. What’s a favorite thing or fun fact about college,


Journey Morrison  26:15  

I have loved being surrounded by people who for the most part around my age and age group. But the biggest thing is, as you get closer towards like figuring out what classes you enjoy and stuff, it is really, really cool to be in a room full of people that are genuinely as interested in this thing as you are. I think that leads to a lot of really cool friendships and experiences.


Bella Christian  26:34  

I can completely agree. Specifically in a poetry class, I’ve, I’ve always loved poetry and taking a poetry class where everyone’s there because they want to be there. And they really enjoy poetry as well. And we can see some really deep conversations about a poem. It is really nice and refreshing.


Bella Christian  26:50  

Honestly, I think I don’t really know how to word this exactly. But I like the idea of not being bugged by teachers or by students. For the most part, it’s all on you. And this can definitely be a pro and a con depending on how motivated you are. But for me, it’s been a pro. So I really enjoy that everything’s on me. It’s up to me to turn in my assignments. That’s me to do the reading or not, etcetera, or to ask for help.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  27:15  

Yeah. How can students be a voice to transform schools?


Journey Morrison  27:20  

This is something that I am glad that I realized. And it was not till it was too late. But taking any form of survey seriously. I know a lot of public schools have like a survey at the end of the year talking about, you know, hey, what do you think of this, this and this testing and stuff. I would take those seriously, because that goes into decision making for the next few years of like a curriculum. So if you’re taking any kind of experimental class, make sure to vocalize how you feel about that. And then in less of an academic setting, just like communicate with school staff and higher ups. You don’t have to be an ASB to make a change in your community. It’s something that I would say.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  27:52  



Bella Christian  27:54  

We definitely know from recent experience what we like and don’t about, specifically public schools. So it’s I think that our specific generation would be really helpful and transforming the education system just because we know personally, what’s helpful and what’s not and what doesn’t work for most students. And what does, especially being at lead prep and actually having an awareness on the subject.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  28:18  

I agree. Yeah. And what’s something most people don’t know about you?


Journey Morrison  28:25  

I am a pretty open book. So this is something people don’t know because it’s been quarantined, but I adopted a leopard gecko named Mango, and I love her to death. She’s my whole world.


Bella Christian  28:39  

I would say that I write music. I write songs. Most people don’t know that about me.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  28:45  

Wow. Fun, Fun Facts. I wrap up my podcast asking a magic wand question. So Journey, if you had a magic wand and could change the mental health landscape of our high schools, what would you wish for?


Journey Morrison  29:05  

I would wish for an environment where there is genuinely no judgment. Where students can ask for help without being judged by their peers or adults or whoever or even themselves just if like somebody is feeling something I want in my magic wand if I can wave one and make it happen, I want a student who is struggling to be able to articulate what they’re struggling with perfectly with no judgment from anyone and they receive help. That’s mine.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  29:32  

Ah, yes. Whoa, quite the magic wand. Bella, how about you?


Bella Christian  29:38  

I think this would definitely be a peer aspect. I think yeah, definitely lack of judgment, which would be a huge thing, especially in public schools. There’s plenty of that. And I think that if everyone was just a bit more understanding, a bit more caring, and communicated a bit better then we’d all get along better and it would be a safer, warmer environment.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  30:01  

Agreed. Wow. Bella, Journey, so awesome to reconnect with both of you. Thank you so much for being on Education Evolution today. And I am totally honored to have been able to walk along parts of your path of education and life. So thank you very much.


Journey Morrison  30:24  

Thanks for having us.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  30:36  

I really, really enjoy getting time with Bella and Journey. Both of them added a lot to Lead Prep and were proud members of the class of 2019.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  30:52  

When I mentioned that our teachers really value the relationships. I was also speaking for myself. I love not being in a school of 1000 high schoolers where I’m trying to figure out if we’re going to buy the property next door, and can we leave the soccer field lights on for the lacrosse practice? And what are we going to do about this donor? And what are we gonna do for the auction, and there’s just so many things that really feel really removed from the students. And in a small school, we all get super connected. So it’s an honor for me to truly get to walk with them. As they are moving through high school and on with their lives.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  31:37  

That relationship piece just keeps coming back. It wove into most of the answers that Journey and Bella gave us that the relationships and the practice asking for help in our micro school carried over. And they really were able to ask for help and join study groups and ask teachers and peers when they needed something. And they were able to dive into relationships when they were in affinity classes and taking something on history or on poetry, relationships. When we have a project based learning model, and students are working together and creating, they’re working on all of these communication skills and gaining confidence. And by starting our day checking in with kids, and really making sure that they’re doing great and spending time hearing their stories. Before we dive into academics, the students know that they are seen and heard and valued. And that’s our Lead Prep motto. We want all students to be seen, heard, valued, and thriving, and Bella and Journey are definitely thriving.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  32:54  

And right now, with mental health numbers at a crisis level for our teens and young adults, thriving is so important. And so taking the time to really be present and really help kids also be able to have a voice when it comes to advocating, hey, I need a break, hey, this is overwhelming. Hey, can I get help breaking this down? We really want to make sure that all of our schools have the bandwidth to address the mental health needs, not just the academic expectations of each learner. And I also loved how they both were able to share for students and parents that are worried about doing something different, why it might be wise to go ahead and give it a try and see. And that they’re, as I told them, their poster children for how a project based student driven micro school did not in any way have a negative impact on their college experience.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  34:00  

So we want to uncouple that belief that if you don’t have a traditional textbook driven high school experience, you can’t go on and succeed in college because that is not true. And they have gained the skills. They know themselves and they have confidence. So they actually go to college knowing who they are, what they want and how to ask for it. And kids can put in the time they can read and write. It doesn’t take years and years of practice reading and writing to be ready for college. It takes all of these skills and solid mental health.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  34:37  

So it was such an amazing treat to get to talk to both Bella and Journey. They are doing great and I will have them back on in the future so we can hear more about their wonderful evolution into young adults. Thank you for joining us.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  34:58  

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 educationevolution.org/consult for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  35:34  

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.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  35:55  

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.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  36:15  

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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