The Paideia School

Ava Changnon '18

This pesky question has bothered me since kindergarten: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Asked by grandparents, strangers, and college applications, I have answered the question in so many different ways. …

But when I came to Paideia as a sixth grader, I was surprised that I was not even asked the question once. In Rachel and Ben’s junior high homebase, they were interested in the development of my sense of self. Teachers at Paideia care about who you are now and what you have to say.

… During my second semester junior year, Paideia gave me an opportunity  to  take  this newly found voice out into the world. What began as an extra-curricular activity that would satisfy a community service requirement, became an experience that taught me the power of my voice. That March, I joined Paideia alum Jon Ossoff’s campaign to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The work was intense and difficult: 12-hour days full of organizing voters and volunteers, the non-stop knocking on doors, both friendly and hostile, and the terrible feeling in the gut when the polls indicated a slip in Jon’s lead.

And then, ultimately, the painful loss in the runoff election in June. I was left feeling completely defeated, the end to something in which I believed so fiercely. So what if Paideia had helped me find my voice. Did anyone hear it?

Driving home from the election returns party, the sting of defeat prevented me from seeing anything positive in the campaign experience. But in the days and months following the election, I was left with unforgettable  memories:  the  excitement  of a dedicated team all determined to get our candidate elected, the valuable mission to improve the lives of people in the 6th District and the strong leadership of Jon Ossoff and the other Paideia alumni that worked on the campaign. Their passion was contagious.…

This is what Paideia taught me: Who  you are is more important than who you will be when you grow up. And using your voice is not about winning, not about convincing others, but simply about speaking up.