Why Are We Here?
The things we're building and working on don't exist in a way that works for many families.
Lift Academy was founded in early summer 2020, right after the school year ended. It's purpose is to solve problems faced by home-schoolers and remote learners, provide critical life skills education for kids, and LIFT their future aspirations higher than they were before.
Why? I home-schooled 3 of my children last year. We LOVED homeschooling, but we experienced a few problems which kept nagging at us, which was heart-breaking for me and sad for them.
When COVID-19 took all the schools to remote learning, we started to see and hear the families around us start to experience some of the same problems too. As the summer began, it seemed very likely that:
- The Fall of 2020 would bring back a lot of remote learners, and
- Many new families, who didn't enjoy remote learning, would be turning to the flexibility of home-schooling
I surveyed a couple hundred families in the U.S. and confirmed that many of the remote learning experiences had common problems.. the same ones we had at home-school. I also really expect the number of people home-schooling to spike, from 2-3% to somewhere around 10%.
I wrote a lot about this already here, but to sum up the main problems:
- Lack of competition
- No sense of progress and academic standing
- Lack of socialization
These have been joined by a problem now common to kids in all types of schooling: we're not teaching the soft skills well anymore. This is evidenced by what we can all see in the world today.
Faced with some nasty hairy problems, and knowing those problems are going to be shared by a lot of other people soon, I did what any self-respecting product engineer would do: I started working on solutions.
We started with assessment testing in the early summer to figure out if some of the kids around us had learned enough last year to move on to the next grade.
Then we worked on the Lift Squad community, to make sure kids had a way to find new friends and have a safe place to hang
About the Founder
I'm a father of 4, with 3 rascally grade schoolers. We love to swim, sled in the forest, play video games, make videos, sing karaoke, cook, bake, and shop.
I am a product engineer by trade with an incurable entrepreneurial appetite. I've founded and run a small online game development school and had some valuable lessons learned there. In my career, I've worked on some really awesome projects in many different fields. To name some of those industries..
- Online Learning
- Leadership Development
- Interactive Cinema
- Game Development
- Advertising Technology
- Large scale online publishing
- Video Streaming
- Customer Experience
- Online Safety and Counter-Fraud
- Interactive Voice (Alexa, Google Home) for big brands
I typically work in and around the Boston area if I'm not working from home. I've had the privilege of working in some fantastic Boston area startups and companies over the years.
To give you an idea of the era in which I grew up.. I graduated High School in New Bedford, MA in 1992. I did enroll in college, but spent most of my time tutoring in the computer labs for pretty great money, and left college after a semester to join the Army. I served in the Army National Guard as an Avionics Flight Technician and Communications Clerk.
I've had some pretty exciting moments in life so far. I've fought forest fires in Eastern Oregon with the Nat'l Guard, been to Hollywood to pitch my interactive cinema platform to movie studios (exciting!), done lots of corporate training around the country, founded a few different companies with some degree of success.. and a lot of learning from failures! I've never really been out of the country, though I dream of travelling with the kids.
I'm an Eagle Scout, which is something I'm very proud of. My time in the Boy Scouts was especially prominent in my life. You want to see leadership development? Go watch a Scout Troop in action. I was a merit badge counselor, dining hall steward (aka the all-singing, all-dancing meal coordinator guy), and when I was much older, a Scoutmaster. Teaching kids, seeing them form lifelong bonds, and watching them learn life lessons is important to me and so rewarding. The interesting thing about learning in Scouts is that it's a fantastic mix of fun and instruction. I want to bring that kind of fun, campy atmosphere into the online shows and classes we do at Lift Academy. When it's appropriate :)
I've founded some very large online communities, like the Facebook Game Developers group, which is over 30k strong. I support entrepreneurs and have enjoyed mentoring on some Startup Weekends. I love working through business models and seeing what complex problems can be solved with my skillset.
When it comes to things like objective testing, I learned at least some of the trade from one of the greatest minds in learning theory. I didn't know it at the time, but it would come to be very important to me one day. Thank you Darrell :)
I am a man of faith. I believe strongly in servant leadership, and always try to follow what I hope is a very strong moral compass.