Educating for Global Competency

At Thrival Academies we ask ourselves, what if deeply personalized global education was an essential part of every student’s high school experience? 


Anyone who has studied abroad or traveled extensively knows how transformative these experiences are. They shift our perspectives of ourselves, our community, and our world. In recent years, a consensus has emerged among policymakers, educators, and business leaders that global competence is critical to the success of our youth and therefore our nation. We know that the challenges of the 21st century – public health, security, energy, technology – are global challenges that must be met with global solutions. In this increasingly interdependent world, future public and private sector leaders will require an expanded skill set that includes cultural competency and international experience. The impact of study abroad is especially profound for students from traditionally underserved racial and socioeconomic communities. International education provides exposure to different communities and cultures, thereby shifting perspectives on self, community and the world, and broadening a sense of what is possible. Despite this overwhelming evidence in favor of international education, exposure to different countries and cultures is disproportionately limited to those students with the resources to access such opportunities. At the college level, more than three-quarters of students who study abroad are White, with less than seven percent of Latino students and less than five percent of Black students participating in international education experiences. Among high school students, this disparity is even more pronounced, especially because scholarships and opportunities for students from lower-income families to participate in international education programs are few and far between.


At Thrival Academies we know that international education is essential to what it means to be an educated person in the 21st century and we are working to make it accessible to every student, regardless of race or socioeconomic background. To achieve this vision we are building a national network of publicly funded, credit-bearing, study abroad high schools. We are honored to be collaborating with Big Picture Learning to incubate, design, and launch our first Academy in Oakland. We are committed to the Big Picture Learning model of “one student at a time” and, in collaboration with Big Picture, have designed an educational program that is be highly individualized, leverages project-based and real-world learning opportunities, and is grounded in the international community in Thailand where our students and staff will live and learn for the majority of the academic year. We are launching in Oakland with our first cohort of students in the fall of 2016.


Through our partnership with Big Picture Learning we collaborate closely with MetWest High School, the Big Picture school in Oakland. This year we are working with four high school interns from MetWest to support our community research and school design activities. As students who live and breathe the Big Picture model, we have found that our interns are the best consultants available to contribute to our school design work.


Recently, one of our interns – 12th grader Camille Brewster – traveled with me  to participate in a showcase event for Thrival Academies in New York City. The showcase was a culminating event for the 4.0 Schools Launch incubator program that Thrival participated in this fall. This opportunity for Camille to travel, engage in real work related to her internship, and showcase her learning in an authentic environment are true examples of the Big Picture Learning educational philosophy in action. Camille’s reflections are below.

My name is Camille Marley Brewster and I go to a Big Picture Learning school in Oakland, California. My school, MetWest High School, is very different than most and it is because of these differences that I got to do half of the things I’ve been able to this past year. At MetWest, on Tuesdays and Thursdays we go out into the real world and work as interns with an organization that interests us. As it’s my senior year, I really wanted to make a difference wherever I ended up working.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working as an intern with Thrival Academies. Every week three other interns and I work together to create a school that will be launched in OUSD (Oakland Unified School District) next year to take students abroad. So many opportunities have come from this partnership. One of my most memorable experiences was when I got to go to New York City in January! I went to NYC to be a part of 4.0 Schools’ pitch showcase at Civic Hall with my mentor from Thrival, Emma Hiza.

With Emma by my side in New York City, I felt like a true member of the professional team. I got to see what it would be like to be a public speaker, a visionary, and someone who was changing the world. The people I met in NYC have helped me imagine more of my dreams for college and my future career.

At Thrival I work with my amazing mentor to create a world-changing study abroad based high school that, as mentioned above, will be launched in Oakland Unified School District next year. It is here that I’ve found that I feel I’m able to make a real change in the world and therefore make a difference.

Many unbelievable opportunities have become available for me thanks to Metwest, Big Picture Learning, and Thrival Academies. One of the most amazing of them all was my trip to New York City for the pitch showcase at Civic Hall. For three whole days I got to be a part of a new world where I got to be a public speaker, a visionary, and someone who was fighting to change the world. And best thing is, I was winning.

Along with 20 other education entrepreneurs, Camille and I pitched Thrival Academies to a room of over 200 investors, educators, entrepreneurs, and supporters. Camille was the only high school student in the entire room and yet her confidence, persuasiveness and grace far exceeded her age. Her ability to communicate compassionately and clearly both on the pitch stage and throughout the networking components of the event are clear indicators that MetWest High School and the Big Picture Learning model s is a highly effective formula for building our next generation of local and global leaders. At Thrival Academies we are excited to continue to partner with Big Picture Learning and our student interns from MetWest to further design our program and launch this fall with our first cohort of students enrolling at Thrival Academy: Oakland.

Emma Hiza is a creative educator, an empathetic explorer, and the Executive Director at Thrival Academies.

Camille Marley Brewster is an outstanding example of leadership for her peers, an intern at Thrival Academies, and a 12th grade student at MetWest High School, Oakland’s Big Picture Learning school. Learn more about Camille on our Meet a Student page!

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