New England Innovation Academy Opens Its Doors to Its First Class

Nation’s First Human-Centered Design Middle & High School Welcomes 76 Students in Grades 6-10 to Launch a New Model for Education

PIN Points

  • NEIA opens its doors to 76 Founding Innovators in grades 6-10.

  • Students work alongside leading-edge faculty and in hands-on partnerships with local businesses.

  • The Rassias Center for World Languages and Cultures at Dartmouth College partnered with NEIA to offer students a robust language learning program with a unique approach that speeds learning and increases retention.

MARLBOROUGH, MA – During Ascent Week at New England Innovation Academy (, 76 students in grades six through ten arrived at the new independent school’s 26-acre campus to begin an educational journey at the nation’s first human-centered design middle and high school. The size of the entering class exceeded the school’s original goal by 18%. The student body is a combination of day and boarding students, hailing from as close as Marlborough and as far away as Uganda.

“After 2 years of planning and building out NEIA’s campus, teachers and staff, and curriculum during a pandemic, we are thrilled to see our first classes arrive,” said NEIA Founding Head of School Tom Woelper. “These students are going to be part of something special: a new type of school that prepares innovators to shape the world through human-centered design. We are excited to begin the journey with them this fall.”

Founded by a group of innovators, entrepreneurs and educators, NEIA is part world school and part incubator, teaching the cultural dexterity and global focus this era demands. The school’s future-focused curriculum features integrated projects, exciting problem solving, active student engagement and coaching from skilled instructors with disciplinary knowledge. Under the guidance of Head of Innovation and Trustee Matthew Kressy, who is also the founder of MIT’s Integrated Design & Management master’s program, the school emphasizes the Innovation Studio as an immersive, project-based learning environment with access to a modern maker space. Students work alongside leading-edge faculty and in hands-on partnerships with local businesses.

“I’m looking forward to meeting new people and bringing out my creativity through the Innovation Studio,” said Kayla Vallecillo, 9th grade student at NEIA.

NEIA’s first class is a diverse cohort, split evenly among males and females with about 40% BIPOC students. The students spent their first few days building community with an overnight experience at Kroka Village in Marlow, New Hampshire. They enjoyed a range of experiences from rock climbing and rappelling to canoeing and hiking. NEIA and Kroka staff assisted students in preparing a pot-luck meal made with ingredients from the farm and cooked over open fires. Classes begin on campus on September 13 in a temporary classroom space as the school completes a $30 million capital improvement of the campus’ main building and residential spaces.

Aside from an innovative human-centered design curriculum, students will also have access to world languages and cultures through the Rassias Center at Dartmouth College, which has partnered with NEIA to offer students a robust language learning program with a unique approach that speeds language learning and increases language retention. Their in-class pursuits will be coupled with real world immersion, where they can see their ideas and concepts come to life in their local community or through partnerships with area companies.

NEIA will eventually grow to be a day/boarding school of approximately 600 students in grades six through twelve. With the belief that innovation is fueled by diversity, NEIA has implemented a flexible, all-inclusive tuition model with locked-in tuition rates to help ensure affordability for students of various income levels. NEIA will begin recruiting students for its 2022 class this fall; families can learn more at

About NEIA

New England Innovation Academy (NEIA) is the first human-centered design middle and high school in the U.S. A new global school for day and boarding students in grades 6-12, NEIA is preparing young innovators with a future-focused approach, human-centered design, and real-world inclusion. Set on a 26-acre campus in Marlborough, Massachusetts, NEIA offers a custom curriculum that encourages students to build empathy, take risks, and engage in hands-on community, environment, and industry projects. For more information, visit


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