A high school student awakens to the reality that opportunities are everywhere—as long as you keep creating them!

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE | by Ava Wettrick

When it comes to modern education and the “entrepreneur / innovator” space, there seems to be a disconnect between cultures.

On one hand, you have the innovators encouraging us to “fail early, fail often.” Education?—not so much.

But why are so many leaders in the entrepreneurial community passionate about disrupting the education system?

Why are leaders like Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Tim Ferris so outspoken lately about re-thinking college?

To quote Naveen Jain, “Our educational system is not broken, has become obsolete.”  

The original structure and content of schools, especially in higher education, was once useful, but not anymore.

The simple format of obedience, repetition, and memorization are of no use to the modern world.

In an age of rapidly accelerating emerging technologies, social media, and constant change—we need creatives, innovators, and disruptors.

There’s certainly innovation in the technology world.

Innovation in Education

And so, how about innovation in the education system? Quite a few indicators say that it’s just now emerging.

Many elementary and middle school classrooms have taken up the idea of Genius Hour, or using 20% of their time to allow students to be creative and work on something in which they find meaning.

For high school students, there has been an uptick in high school “pitch” competitions nationwide.

And recently, a new addition to the curriculum, ‘Innovation’ or ‘Open Source Learning’ classes have been changing the game for students in Indiana. From Indiana, such “Innovation Classes” and the ideology behind them, is spreading—and popping up in other states as well.

A highly engaged high school class model created by author and educator Don Wettrick, it’s a place where a student can do and learn anything imaginable. And they learn the ropes of an entrepreneurial mindset from some of the best in the world:

Tim Ferris

Seth Godin

Tom & Dave Kelly

Tina Seelig

Gary Vaynerchuk

Jocko Willink

Naveen Jain, and

Daniel Pink

…just to name a few.

They do many exercises and out of school activities, like:

  • playing Disruptus (a creative workout game)
  • always documenting our own journeys, and
  • attending “StartEdUp” Nights—most popular among the students.    

 

From there, students usually create a product, a service, a business, a “side hustle,” a creative passion, an event—in fact, the list is infinite.

Highlights of The Innovation Class

Over the course of time, the class has proven to be a big success for the students that fully invest in and take advantage of it. Some of the highlights (people) of the class have been: Hunter Stone, Luke Reks, Ryne Haas, and Colin Wareham.

Hunter Stone started his journey with a well-seasoned knowledge in computer science and was the COO of The Storybook Factory, an online reading and children’s book service built in the Innovation Class. From there, Hunter became the product manager and technical director of Codelicious, a company creating coding curriculum for students. And now he’s busy as VP of the StartEdUp organization and foundation.

In his time spent in The Innovation Class, Luke Reks had built a school in Ghana and is currently building a second one in Kenya. He began as an intern at Triphase Technology and has been climbing the ladder to corporate success.

Ryne Haas created the nation’s first high school e-sports team and built his own company, Paradigm Esports, around helping other schools build their own e-sports teams as well.

Colin Wareham created Educaid, an educational board game company, and he won the 2018 Innovate WithIN Pitch Competition in the course of his time in The Innovation Class; he also started four businesses—some have worked, some have not, but that’s the joy of “failing fast”.  

Some Personal Perspective

I am a current student of The Innovation Class, and the least I can say is that this class and what it has taught me have changed my outlook and direction in life entirely.

From a very young age, though I was enamored with life, I still never knew what I truly wanted to do. I remember back in elementary school adults would ask me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” and my 8-year-old self would reply, “I want to be happy.”

For years, I stuck with that answer—even when I was supposed to have a real answer. Then, in my sophomore year, I was forced into The Innovation Class because, well—my Dad taught it!

I was very anxious to see how the year would turn out for me; several years before this point I had only had a taste of the class and the ideology here and there, but this was the real deal right in front of me.

For the first few months I did as any kid would do: I failed, I tried, and I failed several things—before finding my footing in something I loved, my podcast.

And now, I began to watch as other kids became introduced to the ideas that I had been introduced to, for quite some time: the new mindset, a creative and curious approach to life, taking the risk of doing something, and finding opportunities everywhere.

But now, with this all new (and being a little older), I had a reawakened to these concepts and, for the first time, I wanted to take them to the next level with my podcast.

I began working and I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom and fulfillment because I was not only creating something—but something that would help others.

As the podcast began to grow, I took to LinkedIn and found fantastic things, people that wanted to help and grow just as I did. The connections grew and so did I.

I began to document my journey, and to see how I could help others even more. This eventually took me the floor of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland to speak on the things I was passionate about—mainly, education.

And from that experience, I have created my first venture: a program called ChangeZ.

A New Mentality

This new mentality I have now—to live with meaning and purpose; to strive for great things; to better myself, and to help others—all came from The Innovation Class, and my Dad. I started out as a person with no direction and fear for the future; now I am filled with ambition and know I can overcome obstacles that might come my way.    

This class can be (and already has been) a Godsend for many kids like me. The class embodies the alternative route, and the ‘path less taken’.

Many kids don’t fit into the educational box, and with rapidly changing times, we need young people equipped with knowledge and skill to adapt—to become their best selves—for themselves, for their companies—or for their own ventures and any employees they may hire.

We have already begun seeing the damaging results of an obsolete educational system: ever-increasing college debt, unused degrees, and more. Like the government debt clock—there should be a clock for that!

From my perspective, The Innovation Class is the answer to what might be a new educational system—an education system of the future.

INNOVATION CELEBRATION. Listen in as Ava Wettrick interviews author, educator and creator of The Innovation Class, Don Wettrick, here: 

Ava Wettrick (top photo, with microphone) is a senior at Noblesville High School (IN) and the host of MentorZ, a podcast featuring top authors and entrepreneurs. She was a delegate this past year to the United Nations World Investment and Youth Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. She is also the creator of ChangeZ, a seven-week program designed to teach young women an entrepreneurial and empowerment mindset for the new economy. Contact her through LinkedIn