I love taking walks in Boise in the spring. On a trail in the foothills or on a sidewalk in a neighborhood, I can’t help but notice everywhere nature’s relentless desire to grow. One Stone experiences this same phenomenon everyday, year round. We encourage growth in mindset, knowledge, creativity, skills, and voice.
I sat down with three One Stone members, Tacet and Lucian, who attend One Stone High School, and Sammi, who participates in Project Good, an experiential service program. I asked them about what drew them to the organization and how they have grown since coming here.
Tacet described how at One Stone, school no longer feels like “something you have to get through. Performance is based on personal best (rather than grades) so there’s motivation to strive to do better.” In addition he described how “wanting to get better at something like math doesn’t feel like an impossible thing. Here you can take tests home to work on them and you’re encouraged to ask questions.” One Stone’s focus on growth, according to Tacet, “takes the pressure off and encourages you to try new things without the fear of getting a bad grade.”
Lucian explained that what they’re learning is based on “where we are, what level we’re on, so we’re challenged in everything.” They were drawn to taking math because the coach’s background is in biology and art, so the class connects to other subjects. They also recently began pursuing a new interest in pottery.
Sammi comes to One Stone after school to work on the FLIP (Families Living in Inspiring Places) project to help families experiencing homelessness make their new living space a home and the LOT of Hope project to build community within the Good Samaritan Home by renovating their outdoor space. One Stone has helped her develop leadership, communication, and organizational skills while making a difference in the community. In terms of growth, she says her “voice is heard.” She explains how, “in school, you’re given a problem and told how to solve it. At One Stone, since it’s student-run, you’re given a problem and the students get to work together to decide how to solve it.”
This discussion of growth reminded me of a book I couldn’t put down recently, called Educated: A Memoir, about Tara Westover’s upbringing around Buck’s Peak in rural Idaho.
The daughter of anti-government, religious fundamentalists, Westover and her six older siblings were all born at home. They had no birth certificates, never saw a doctor or dentist, and did not attend school. Their “education” consisted mainly of learning things the hard way in their father’s junkyard. Before attending college at 17, Westover didn’t know things that many of us take for granted, from life skills like knowing how to fill out an application or understanding the importance of washing your hands after using the restroom, to academic knowledge, including knowing what the Holocaust was and understanding why it occurred.
As I read her at times uplifting, at times heartbreaking story, I couldn’t help but imagine what insatiable desire to grow she must have possessed. Through curiosity, grit, ownership, and a deep desire to grow, Westover completed an undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University and later a PhD from University of Cambridge in England. Perhaps due to her previous lack of formal education, she looked at university life through a wide angle lens of endless possibility. She explains:
The university seemed to offer a new beginning, and I intended to take it. I enrolled in every course I could squeeze into my schedule, from German idealism to the history of secularism to ethics and law. I joined a weekly study group to practice French, and another to learn knitting. The graduate school offered a free course on charcoal sketching. I had never drawn in my life but I signed up for that, too. (297)
At One Stone High School, we accept students based on their application and interview. We want to get to know each applicant and determine if they’re a good fit to our culture of ownership and student-driven learning. It’s not until after students are accepted that we access their previous grades, test scores, and records, because those things aren’t as important to us as the student’s unique desire to grow.
Once here, students are encouraged to enroll in different courses and projects. Tacet, Lucian, and Sammi can attest that One Stone “encourages the freedom to want to grow.” Like Westover, we believe that “education is not so much about making a living, as making a person.”
Have a desire to grow? Students can read up on and apply to our school or find out more about Project Good (our experiential service program), Two Birds (our creative studio), and Solution Lab (our idea incubator). Adults can explore volunteer opportunities and current openings. One Stone offers all of its platforms, including our private school, at no cost, making them accessible to anyone interested in becoming a better leader and making the world a better place.
Jane Walther is the infrastructure director at One Stone, a student-led and directed nonprofit that empowers high school students to learn and practice 21st century skills through experiential service, innovative initiatives, social entrepreneurship, and the radical reinvention of learning. She cultivates her desire to grow personally and professionally every day. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.