Our Focus on Education

The Current State of Education Is Unacceptable

H18 was born for very specific reasons.

Every day, we send our children off to school. We see first-hand the challenges our nation’s public educational system faces. We see the desperate need for business-minded technology strategists, implementers, and operators to focus on improving educational outcomes. We know we have the capability, experiences, and motivation to help make a difference in a system that has not yet fully embraced the advances that have transformed other industries.

The debate surrounding student achievement has largely focused on assessment—first, with No Child Left Behind, and now, the more recent introduction of the Common Core Standards. However, educators, elected officials, and policy makers have not turned their attention as much to the impact of economic inequalities among students and/or challenges faced by students with learning differences and disabilities. Both circumstances hinder or even prevent millions of students across the country from reaching their potential. For all the talk about the achievement gap, lawmakers, states, and districts haven’t spent near enough time addressing the “opportunity gap.” But through innovation and technology introduced into the classroom, while understanding, respecting, and empowering the human interactions that drive success inside the classroom, positive transformation is possible for these students. H18 wants to contribute to that success.

Why Did We Embark on This Journey?

Each of us embarked on this journey because of personal challenges our children have encountered, our own observations of deficiencies in our counties’ public educational systems, and a lack of equity available to help drive education back into the core value system of students, parents, and communities.

We are motivated by the absolute certainty that the current educational platform isn’t good enough, and technology-driven products (if properly envisioned, designed, developed, tested, deployed, and continuously revised and updated) will redefine how our children and their children learn. We want to contribute to the community of socially minded, education-focused, technology driven individuals.

Ira wakes up every morning to help his daughter, a young girl with ADHD, executive function challenges, and just general learning differences, take her medication, get ready for school, and then drive her to private school. For years, Ira and his wife struggled to work with the public school administration and staff to find a workable level of classroom support for his daughter, who was motivated to please her teachers and succeed academically. However, the lack of professional training among the staff for different disabilities, the inconsistent adherence to IEPs, and core lack of understanding of her ability to learn, led to the diminishment of confidence and vibrancy with every failure, struggle, and incident where she felt like an outsider. Finally, Ira decided to place his daughter in a private school focused on teaching children with learning differences where kids “learn how to learn.” Her transformation has been nothing short of remarkable, and it has become Ira’s focus to leverage his professional experiences in other industries to deliver similar educational solutions that can help students, parents, teachers, administrators enable children with similar learning differences to learn and feel the same pride that other neurotypical or higher-income students may take for granted.

In third and fourth grade, each teacher told Rob's mother to remove him from the public school because the environment was not providing the appropriate enrichment. Rob was fortunate as they not only identified a gap, but also proposed separately the same solution to address the unmet need. He applied and was admitted to a nearby private school and provided the maximum scholarships, which covered 80% of the annual costs. Although his family was of lower socio-economic class, Rob's parents each worked multiple jobs at different points to provide him with the opportunity, recognizing the importance of education. His father was the first in his family to graduate from college, and his mother would be the first in her family when she started college in his eighth grade year and graduated the same year as Rob. After graduating from college, his first position was as a Kindergarten teacher at a nearby private school. Rob has continued to work with youth as a soccer coach since, but found in technology the ability to have a broader impact on education and outcomes. Having experienced the impact of equity firsthand, Rob realizes that without the generosity of donors and the commitment of his parents that he would not have had the access to opportunity, and hopes to affect change for millions of students.

In 1984, Matt's family purchased their first computer. Although just 10 years old, he became obsessed with all aspects of computers. How did they work? How did they "think"? Wanting to focus his curious energy, Matt's father sought technology instruction for Matt. In the mid-1980's the public school system offered a typing course, but personal technology was merely in it's infancy and instruction was not readily available in primary or secondary schools. So, at age 11, Matt took a summer course in computer programming at a local community college. At age 14, Matt created an application to manage pre-election data and produce reports to coordinate volunteers for a mayoral candidate in his hometown. Since that time in 1988, Matt has realized his passion to create works of technology from nothing more than an idea. But, had his father not invested the effort to find the proper instruction, would Matt's life be the same? Education technology and technology instruction have matured significantly, but fails to keep pace with technological innovation in our society. Today's youth are more than just scholars. They are burgeoning entrepreneurs with the will to make a difference, to change society. Matt is an advocate for education technology so that, like his father did for him, our youth are equipped with the technology tools to realize their passions.

At H18, we focus on technology-based solutions that will scale and provide access to families, school systems, and communities that are less fortunate. All families should be able to experience the transformational opportunity for their children within our public education system that Ira has witnessed this year.