Focusing in the classroom was a struggle for Sam. In his own words, he felt “like a robot, sitting still and downloading information that didn’t interest [him].” This became increasingly frustrating, and he found it harder to process the material as time went on. Despite trying, Sam couldn’t keep his attention. Meanwhile, he wanted to figure out what did interest him and get going on it, whatever it was.
When Sam came to PLC late in the school year, two things were clear: he loved music and he wanted space. Sam spent a good part of his time on a giant bean bag chair with his eyes closed and his headphones on. As a staff, we weren’t sure when and how things would pick up for him. However, we trusted the process, so we gave it time. Summer soon came and went, and when Sam returned in September, he was alert and ready to go.
The transformation was truly impressive. Sam participated in a bunch of classes, worked on projects and outside assignments, and studied up on his two polar interests: hip hop music and meditation. He spent a lot of time researching and writing about the history of hip hop, and he picked up Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations to read for pleasure. Additionally, he is turning his love of hip hop into a successful business on the side. Sam has deejayed for multiple public events and was even interviewed on a teen panel with other young entrepreneurs. During his time at PLC, Sam came to realize that he didn’t want to pursue a career in music production, but rather keep it as a side hobby and focus his studies on business more generally.
Sam moved on from PLC in spring 2018 and is studying mass communications at Virginia State University.
Sam’s dad shared his story at our self-directed learning celebration in spring 2018:
Sam wrote this essay about his experience at PLC:
There is no such thing as one size fits all in education. I know that first hand because I’ve tried many different sizes. Despite having to search high and low for better alternatives, it became worth it.
In kindergarten, I realized that school was going to be a difficult ride. I always seemed to be distracted as a kid, which made school difficult to get through. Kindergarten was the worst year in my education. I remember the teacher calling me out when I was daydreaming, saying “Sam, come back to earth.” The other students laughed while I sat in embarrassment. If a student finished their work on time they were rewarded with candy. I never was able to finish on time to get the reward. In sixth grade, I was finally diagnosed with slight ADD and found out that my symptoms would continually improve. But, by the time I was no longer being affected, I was already fed up with school.
In seventh grade, I decided to quit trying in school. I was done struggling with seemingly meaningless tasks that didn’t correlate with anything. I stopped studying, I wasn’t doing homework and didn’t try the classwork. It got to the point where my parents were desperate for me to perform better. In freshman year, I failed my Algebra I class. I had to retake it in the summer. I didn’t want to take it in public school, so my mother found an online program. I performed well in the program. My parents suggested that I do online homeschooling full time. I felt like anything would be better than where I currently was. It turns out I was wrong. I still wasn’t doing my work and on top of that I was developing a minor sense of depression because of the isolation. After a few months, it was clear to my parents that it wasn’t working. My mother searched for different options. Then, she came across PLC and I joined soon after.
The first two months I just slept and listened to music. However, I realized that I couldn’t turn sleeping and listening to music into a career. I told my mentor Katy that I wanted to make something of myself. She asked me what my goals were, and I said that my parents wanted me to go to college. She then listed out the classes that colleges would require me to take. I took them, but this time it was different. This time I was participating in class, doing homework, volunteering to do projects and presentations. Along with that, the entirety of my life improved. I got a job, then an internship and took some college classes. Joel, the co-founder of PLC, took me on my first 10k and Spartan Race. I started getting more involved in the communities around me. For example, I started to set up trips and volunteering opportunities for PLC and became a PLC ambassador. Also, at the time of writing this, I am getting close to achieving my goal by applying to colleges of my choice.
When I think about how much I have changed since I started PLC I get emotional. When I think of myself before, I feel slightly disappointed because of the things I knew I could’ve done but didn’t because I gave up. When I think of myself now, I feel proud, confident and grateful – forever, grateful to PLC and everyone in it for gifting me the ability to become my best self.