The Ascension ProjectThe Ascension Project

Ascendant Philosophies: The Highest Calling

When I began my career now more than 30 years ago, I followed a path as teacher, organizer, administrator, mentor — and, always, as a learner. The course I took could not have been charted. I spent a decade on the campuses of two of the nation's most prestigious boarding schools. At the same time, I worked on literacy programs with the Connecticut Department of Corrections and with community organizations in Holyoke, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut. It was during this period that my educational philosophy began to evolve.

From prison yard to school yard, I witnessed the lives of our country's elite and of those who had been pushed to the very margins of society.

I saw that high-achieving and enduring schools and community centers first promote self-discovery, personal affirmation and community membership as their core truths. The acquisition of basic and advanced skills; the celebration of artistic, intellectual and physical curiosity; and the satisfactory performance on a chosen standardized evaluation occurs most often when justice serves an institution as its principle guidepost.

Successful schools respond to the world. They engage and interact with it. They help shape it. Ultimately, they distribute and share a treasured commodity: promise.

Children and young adults respond comfortably and eagerly to the very things we hold in high regard, and when tightly woven into a community's social, academic and cultural fabric, real expressions of character, civility and community are possible.

An organization built using trust, caring, discipline and the joy of discovery lends itself almost organically to learning. These schools and centers foster and sustain an atmosphere where convention and change, in all their manifestations, can co-exist and support one another.

Teaching/advocacy is a high calling. It is the very bedrock upon which the best schools and programs are built. Content that is well-organized, presented in sequence with room for diversion and discovery, produces desired outcomes. That's why it is essential to support teachers and youth advocates and encourage their ongoing professional development. They too need to remain active and thoughtful learners.

We live in an age of great promise and peril. How we educate and prepare our children for the world they will encounter is our most important charge and mandate. I believe that our response needs to be catalytic, strategically positioned, mindful of the outcomes, respectful of the process, well-funded and rooted in those democratic traditions that have defined us at our very best.

Brad Zervas
Founder, The Ascension Project, 2015