I was a freshman at Dayton High School when the Innovate Dayton initiative began to take flight in the school district. During the program’s 2016 liftoff assembly which included a massive audience of community members, industry collaborators, and K-12 students, I sat in the top back row of the bleachers. Unconcerned. Uninspired. Unknowing.
I was new to Dayton and had no idea that those first moments of brief interaction between me and the bustling, high-energy school district, were the beginning of my own breakthroughs in school and in life. Even more than that, I was unaware of the footprint that the Dayton School District would go on to make not just on me, but on the entire community. Later, On bordering communities. And after that, internationally.
During my sophomore year, teachers worked together to allow me a way to study English independently -- this project began my journey writing for the school district’s innovation blog. That’s when I started to feel the movement. It has been my honor to aid in telling this ongoing story through my role as the primary contributor for the Innovate Dayton blog. At the end of my journey with the high school, I even had one of my articles featured in the Queensland Principal magazine, an educational journal published in Australia. Throughout this journey, I learned how to believe in myself and my life changed course.
All that said, my single perspective throughout the Dayton experiment is inherently limited.
Reading The Dayton Experiment gave me an inside look at the journey that gave Dayton a voice. The story involved important perspectives which highlighted the inside process wherein a community of people -- including my own neighbors, friends, teachers and fellow students -- explored the powerful potential of innovative education in Dayton. While reinforcing the success of the experiment, the book told the lesser-known story of the difficult journey to get there. A side of the story that I wasn’t nearly as familiar with.
My greatest fears are rooted in the unknown; in situations where a framework or tangible outcome is not there. Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone. But reading this book still forced me to wonder why displaying the complex fears of educators and students alike, was such an important aspect of the story. Then I realized why: because fear can both create walls and provoke change. Sometimes fear inspires us to take bold actions for ourselves or our community. Other times fear takes hold of good ideas and surrounds them in murky, muddy water -- where those ideas sink once order is re-established.
Reading this story, I understood the fear of change and the even greater power of risk. A power that impacted not only me; but a community of people burning to make a profound change in their school district and beyond. Through that, I learned about what it means to embrace messiness, maintain crazy radical ideas, and believe in the possibility of those ideas. To be sincerely fearless. It isn’t easy to deviate from what is comfortable but it is absolutely necessary to see change.