Expanding the Concept of Community at NEIA

Pin Points

  • ENCOURAGE STUDENTS to learn to take ownership of their health and wellness. Taking proper care of yourself is the first step to becoming a future innovator.  

  • COMMUNITY BUILDING is central to campus life, to create a sense of belonging and supporting each other.

  • NEIA’S I.D.E.A.S. platform will leverage diversity, and diversity of experience, to weave a tapestry of trust and respect.

  • RESTORATIVE JUSTICE calls for students to understand how they stepped outside expectations, how that affected them and the community around them—and what they’ll need to do to restore themselves within the community.

  • EDUCATING THOUGHTFUL, EMPATHETIC STUDENTS means encouraging them to listen to lead, inquire to innovate, and empowering them to build a supportive community as they embrace a world of possibilities.

Take better care of yourself, so you can take better care of others.

As adults, this is something we hear often. Busy with the things we must do and those we want to pursue, many of us need to train ourselves to be mindful, thoughtful and inclusive as the world spins by. When we’re successful, it’s not just us who feel better. It’s everyone around us; we are able to fully participate in the communities to which we belong, and bring our talents, opinions and perspectives to the places that need them the most.

We are, of course, more empathetic humans when we know ourselves and understand our place in the world. 

But why wait until adulthood to acquire this skill? Like many other things, it can be taught, it can be reflexive, and it can set students up to be better citizens, leaders and innovators — and their better selves. 

At NEIA, we achieve this by taking a human-centered design approach to our community. Instead of compartmentalized buckets for physical health, mental health, academics, civic engagement and so on, our philosophy is to take a holistic approach.

Ownership and Access to Physical and Mental Health Resources 

At NEIA, we encourage students to take ownership of their physical and mental health in a way that empowers them. We believe that there should be no stigma around advocating for yourself and setting up a network of support around physical and mental health. 

After all—you cannot be an innovator, a student, or a learner if you are not well. But what will make you well in this moment?

NEIA’s students choose from a diverse set of mental and physical health options. Whether that’s more formal counseling, the opportunity to do an outdoor meditation walk or a yoga class, the goal is to allow students to set up a system that best benefits them. Health resources will be embedded into the school’s DNA in order to destigmatize the idea of having agency over your physical and mental health.

Emphasis on the True Value of Community 

Many young people, particularly as isolated as the last several months have been, have limited experience with a true community. In order to educate thoughtful, empathetic and innovative citizens, community will be at NEIA’s core.

NEIA’s campus experience will emphasize what a community means in terms of responsibility to oneself and to others. Our goal is to cultivate a community that understands the expectations their fellow community members have for them–not just living for themselves, but for others as well. 

This also provides students with a sense of ownership and belonging. Understanding what your unique strengths are, and feeling like those strengths are needed for the student body to operate as it should, is a powerful feeling. Students will be responsible to their advisory pods and their peers, traveling with them year over year and building a familial unit in the school.

This means that NEIA’s students aren’t simply participating in classes, activities or extracurriculars: they are responsible for their place within those communities. NEIA is about understanding your impact, how you fit inside the ecosystem and how you can effect change.

NEIA’s I.D.E.A.S. 

NEIA innovators are empowered by Inclusion in a Diverse community, which strives for Equity by putting into Action relevant Social justice programs—IDEAS. We understand that each student has an individual and diverse experience before they walk onto the NEIA campus, and we need to start from there. We recognize that adults and students alike have visible and invisible diversity. We acknowledge that this reality shapes us and those around us. 

Through I.D.E.A.S., we facilitate the building of a community that honors the great diversity of experience that our students, parents, faculty and staff bring. NEIA will leverage diversity, and diversity of experience, to weave a tapestry of trust and respect.  

After all, we are all in this together; we evolve and grow in relation to one another.

Governance by Need 

Part of building a new school means that you are not trying to recreate anything; instead, you can imagine what’s possible. One of the many areas in which NEIA does this is breaking down the traditional structure around leadership and governance in the student body.

Visit any school and find a student body president, treasurer of the drama club, secretary of the chess club. At NEIA, governance is by need, not title. When a decision needs to be made, a body of stakeholders is assembled to work together, represent their unique needs and perspectives, and come to a conclusion.

Take the example of a school play where ticket sales will benefit a local charity. Which charity will benefit? The club would put a call out for the stakeholders to gather—and those who have an interest in the results will work together to share their points of view, make a decision in an empathetic way, and move forward. 

NEIA removes the staid systems, which often exist from years of tradition, and replaces them with a responsive, nimble way of getting things done.

Restorative Justice 

While empathy is a central component of NEIA’s philosophy, it’s not a utopia. We are teaching students, not robots, and part of growing and developing is making mistakes. Much like there’s no secretary of the freshman class, there’s no mystical Excel spreadsheet at NEIA with a list of offenses on the left and disciplinary actions on the right. 

Instead, NEIA employs restorative justice practices to help students understand how they stepped outside expectations, how that affected them and the community around them—and what they’ll need to do to restore themselves within the community.

This strategy is about community at its core. As a community moves along, there will be times its members run afoul of expectations, and need to restore their status within the community in whatever way is appropriate. This is also a key area in practicing and demonstrating empathy: when you do something that might violate the values, rules or norms of our school, you need to understand how your actions had an impact on others. 

Communication is central to everything at NEIA. The human-centered design process requires our students, faculty and staff to restlessly question what’s happening and collaborating with others to make a better world by asking the right questions. 

Educating Innovative, Thoughtful & Empathetic Citizens 

The focus on human-centered design and empathy at NEIA certainly makes for a better community at NEIA. But it also creates the types of citizens that are going to be more thoughtful and empathetic when they go out into the world. 

Ultimately a key goal of education is for students to transfer their learning to novel situations. At NEIA, we strive for students to be their better selves, better family members, better friends, better citizens permanently as a result of their experience with us. 

The NEIA community is ever-changing and improving. We iterate, we innovate in the service of creating a more inclusive, more caring, and more inviting place to live, study, and play. NEIA students listen to lead; they inquire to innovate and they are empowered to build the community they need to support them as they change the world. We take better care, so that our students can care better.


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Yesterday, our mini inventors went to the Boston Museum of Science to see real life inventions and creations. They dove into design processes to ultimately guide them in their creation of a product which they will be presenting tomorrow!

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This week our mini inventors will be focusing on coding and prototyping. Yesterday, students prototyped a lamp, and today, they did the same with a sound machine. Students then used human-centered design to understand how to improve the product for the user by interviewing classmates and staff. Friday, students will present to their classmates, staff, and families their chosen projects starting from their beginning sketches to their prototype to the final product.

#NEIA #NEIANEXT #Innovation #Inspiration #Invention #Creation #Workshop #Summer2024


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