BY MCKENNA KISER, student in the Bartleby Program at Elizabethton High School
“What is Bartleby?” Dr. Martinez asked our dinner table. “Is it a school, an idea, or only additional classes?” she added on.
“The Bartleby Super School is the future,” I stated confidently, although I was in front of my superintendent, the Bartleby director, and a Chief School Support Officer for the XQ institute who was possibly going to grant my school system with the funds to expand the program, all depending on my response.
Never did I imagine that I would be given the opportunity to be such a crucial role in my community. Bartleby has been teaching me how to be a leader.
The Bartleby Program at Elizabethton High School really is the future of education. Bartleby uses hands-on techniques and combines it with individual passions of a student to create real situations instead of open learning. Students are more eager and successful when they are participating in projects that have a more significant outcome than just a letter grade.
2017 was Bartleby’s first year of classes: Community Improvement and Entrepreneurship. I’ve always heard universities give scholarships to students with active volunteer lives, so I thought this was my chance. Little did I know I would gain much more than a scholarship.
Right out of the gate, I was faced with the challenge of being interviewed to get accepted into the program. I had to develop a project that helped my small community of Elizabethton, Tennessee. Using the Bartleby vision for personalized learning, I created S.T.R.I.V.E., a teen-led support group to help prevent and fight mental illness in high school students. Since seventh grade, I had struggled with depression, anxiety, and anger issues. After four years, I cracked and was hospitalized for attempted suicide at the age of 15. I envisioned a peer support group where students could co-council and give advice on mental health issues.
With Bartleby, I turned my weakness into a strength to help others. I planned to have the first meeting within a week of starting the class. To my surprise, it took around two months before I called our first meeting to order. Before helping anyone, I had to file insurance claims and study regulations. Then, I made partnerships with local college professors and leaders in my community to help obtain resources needed for the group.
I attended college psychology classes to help better understand mental health and had numerous one-on-one meetings with my professor and guidance counselor to understand group dynamics, appropriate responses, and the severity of issues.
After months of emails, meetings, and advertising, S.T.R.I.V.E. finally had its first meeting. S.T.R.I.V.E is what I created for Bartleby, but Bartleby gave me much more. I gained professional and life experiences. Through the Bartleby program, I participated in a global street art project, raised truckloads of supplies for hurricane victims, and helped Habitat for Humanity build a home for my local community. Throughout the semester we had non-profit owners and visionaries come and speak to our class hoping to spark influence as role models.
Bartleby gave us the responsibility to take our education into our own hands, and with that we became leaders. Yes, Bartleby is hard work, but the challenges are preparing you for a much larger picture.
The vision of education is more than a test score, and it is so inspiring because, with projects like S.T.R.I.V.E., people’s quality of life is improving.
I found my passion for helping people and becoming an advocate through the Bartleby experience. I have a new respect for business and charity owners because I have had a personal experience with the challenges they undergo. The program has allowed me to explore my strengths and combat my weaknesses.
At only 16-years-old, I already feel like a contributing member of my small town, and I can’t wait to grow into one of the role models I met at Bartleby. I initially just thought of this program as a resource to gain volunteer hours, but it completely changed how I think education should be.
By having full ownership of my education, I learned skills that couldn’t be found in a classroom but only through application. I see S.T.R.I.V.E. expanding into a national aid in the future, and Bartleby footprints will continue to grow and change lives daily, including mine.