Last month, we spent a week in Nashville with leaders and learners at the iNACOL Symposium. During our time there we got to interview a ton of great people for the podcast which gave us so much quality content we couldn’t help but share.

So, this week, you get a bonus episode! Think of it as our gift to you this holiday season. Or just a really great excuse to hear from the powerful leaders of Thrive Public Schools.

In this special bonus episode, Tom interviews Nicole Assisi and Shelly Kurt of Thrive to talk all about how they are building community and doubling proficiency rates for children from low-income neighborhoods.

Nicole and Shelly originally met at a San Diego Starbucks five years ago and went on to create one of the nation’s most thoughtfully design K-12 networks serving diverse low-income neighborhoods—Thrive. From the first napkin of that fateful day, they outlined the key elements that make Thrive so special—project-based, personalized, and social-emotional learning. They wanted to create a place that helps develop good humans that solve problems with discernment, empathy, and agency—and they did. They picked two underserved neighborhoods in east San Diego, City Heights, and Linda Vista, and set to work combine all of these elements that make Thrive so special.

Listen in to learn more about their work at Thrive and what will come next for the network.

Key Takeaways:

[:15] About today’s bonus episode.
[1:27] Tom welcomes Nicole and Shelly to the podcast.
[1:45] About Nicole’s high school education and early career.
[2:21] Where Shelly grew up, her high school experience, and when she decided to pursue education as a career.
[3:01] The story of how Nicole and Shelly first met.
[5:01] The core teachings and transformative education Nicole and Shelly focus on at Thrive.
[6:09] Nicole discusses the underserved communities they decided to focus on in San Diego.
[8:16] Nicole and Shelly discuss their newly opened k-8 campus.
[9:01] How the new space compliments their program.
[11:50] Jessica takes a moment to explain a campaign Getting Smart is supporting this winter called ‘Share your Learning.’
[12:31] About the flexibility and functionality of their space.
[14:00] Shelly and Nicole discuss their project-based learning and social-emotional learning that they implement at Thrive, and how
[16:25] Nicole and Shelly describe their organizational learning.
[18:23] What else Nicolle and Shelly are doing to share their lessons outside of Thrive.
[20:49] Nicole and Shelly’s learnings about high school.
[22:16] Does Thrive have ambitions to grow a giant network?
[23:16] What Nicole and Shelly are most curious about right now and want to work towards.
[26:00] A big thanks to Nicole and Shelly for joining Tom this episode!

Mentioned in This Episode:

Thrive Public Schools
iNACOL Symposium
High Tech High
Share your Learning
Corte Madera School District
Next Generation Learning Challenges
Silicon Schools Fund

For More on Thrive Public Schools:

For More on Great Schools, Check Out:


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