When I tell people we are building one of the country’s most international boarding schools right here in Pasadena, people often have no idea such a large campus even exists in their backyard, let alone what a rich addition to the community we are working to cultivate. EF Academy’s new campus in Pasadena is undergoing major renovations to transform it into a beautiful, modern, international learning hub. Students will live and learn among peers from over 60 nationalities, including US students right from the campus’s hometown. When students come from this many backgrounds, as much learning will take place outside of the classroom as it will within. A boarding environment allows for nurturing friendships that will span the globe and last a lifetime. Students will experience the whole world right on our campus; they will gain the experience of traveling without leaving Los Angeles.
Igniting curiosity about other cultures, religions, languages, and traditions helps us build global understanding, empathy, and respect. It’s impossible not to empathize when you have fully understood other perspectives. A phenomenon happens when our miniature United Nations of students come together. It takes mere weeks to watch the mutual respect build between students. Misunderstandings and implicit biases are replaced by curiosity and, ultimately, unity. And then, the magic happens – diversity in knowledge systems and experiences leads to an incredible basis for collaboration and shared purpose.
EF Academy’s mission is to ‘open the world through education.’ Not only are we opening a world of opportunities for our students by preparing them for a life without borders, equipping them with the confidence and skillset to work anywhere in the world, but we are also committed to serving a larger mission – to make the world a better place by creating global changemakers who are empowered to make an impact now. Our call to action is more urgent than ever.
Most schools simply practice for the real world. At EF Academy, our charge is to create real world solutions now. The projects that our students will work on will need to be implementable in the real world with demonstrated impact and show plans for future continuity. Students today have data at their fingertips. They are being fed information at such a velocity that they have a deeper understanding of the world than we had just a decade ago. Of course, the influence of technology has been equally for the good, as for the bad. Ninth graders come in knowing about current world issues and are naturally human rights advocates. In small snippets, and at high speed, they often know what is going on before it hits the news stations. The world is different, and education demands new ways of thinking and a drastic paradigm shift. Long before COVID made us look in the mirror to see if our educational ideals lived up to how we are preparing students for university and beyond, educators began questioning our century-old cookie-cutter approach and methods of collecting credits. With universities looking more for agility in creative problem solving and collaborative work ethic, high schools have met this demand by teaching more advanced studies courses with a competency-based approach. There is no doubt that we need systems in place which hold schools accountable to developing well-rounded students. We can certainly be more creative now with how we get them there.
EF Academy Pasadena aims to bridge that gap by maintaining a rigorous program of study that combines with the newest ‘best practices’ in education. Imagine a high school where student-led learning initiatives are prioritized and nurtured. They will study all the traditional subjects and even have options like Advanced Placement (AP) courses available to them, but uniquely, students will spend as much time as they do in chemistry, as they do with their Global Leadership project. Students learn best when they are engaged in relevant and important issues that impact their communities and the world. We believe that students’ lived experiences and perspectives are assets that can be leveraged in learning every day. Global Leadership allows students to demonstrate agency, inquiry, and reflection – key skills in becoming global changemakers.
The future generation is here now, and no generation has ever been so prepared as this one. Who better than this generation, a coalition of students, to enter the world, making an impact and inspiring others? Our educational program seeks to respond to what the world needs and what this generation cares about. As the Deputy Head of School for Academics at EF Academy Pasadena, I feel uniquely fortunate to be part of this movement, offering a world of opportunities right here in our backyard.
Kim Stein is Deputy Head of School for Academics for EF Academy Pasadena, which is located at 1539 E. Howard Street in Pasadena.