When the pandemic hit in the spring semester of 2020, our Academy was uniquely situated to prosper and thrive (all things considered).
As a small school with an amazing team, we had already demonstrated the institutional grit and agility to weather unexpected phenomena. In recent years, we endured together the wildfires, floods, and outages that seem so endemic to modern life. As a school with a high-caliber, digital curriculum, our mentors and learners were already accustomed to conducting lessons and submitting assignments via a digital platform (our amazing and ever-evolving Quest! app). And we are an educational institution that values mindset, skills, and habits over content. So, we were uniquely attuned to the learning opportunities inherent in this public health crisis.
All of these factors combined to make our shift to remote learning a relatively graceful one.
As one humble mentor at this amazing Academy, I see our performance in the spring of 2020-21 as a major success — not to mention an amazing potential selling point — to prospective students and families. When the world was falling apart around us, this school held it together in extraordinary ways. Other educational institutions couldn’t adapt in time and collapsed under the weight of the pandemic. Some wrote off spring 2020 as a lost semester and left students and families to fend for themselves. Quest Forward Academy doubled down on our commitment to our students and community members. We pulled together, continued classes online, held virtual assemblies and club meetings, and hosted an amazingly well-produced online graduation. We finished the academic year perhaps stronger and more connected than ever before.
With this new 2020-2021 academic year, as Coronavirus continues to spread and pose challenges to all aspects of society and education, Quest Forward Academy continues to adapt, respond to, and in many ways transcend the crisis.
We expanded our staff and hired several amazing new mentors who are passionate about their subject areas and individualized, project-based education. Our team is well-trained, well-connected, and well-versed in remote learning. We are also coming fresh off a summer of personal rejuvenation and professional development around topics related to effective Quest Forward mentoring practices in the age of COVID-19. Our technology leveled up significantly, with faster wifi and larger monitors. Major updates to the Quest! app make remote learning even smoother than it was last year. And our recently renovated campus has state-of-the-art classrooms ready for Seamless Learning as soon as federal, state, and local health guidelines allow us to resume hybrid in-person instruction.
But in the meantime, in our Zoom rooms and our students’ living rooms, class is most certainly in session! Our growing student body (including a full class of new 9th graders starting their high school experience online) can feel the dedication of our mentors, the relevance of our curriculum, and the agility and adaptability of our Academy as a whole.
Certainly, “We’ve Got This.” But we are actually growing stronger (as individual learners and as a learning community) through this experience. For it is in the crucible of world events like COVID-19 and climate-change-fueled wildfires that tomorrow’s leaders are being forged, and it is in conscious learning communities like this Quest Forward Academy that these future leaders are getting the care and attention they need to blossom into their best selves.
Nils Palsson is the Pathways Coordinator at Quest Forward Academy Santa Rosa. He formerly served as a Social Sciences Mentor, Mentor Coach, facilitator of the City as Campus at the Academy. Nils joined the Quest Forward Academy team in 2018 and loves Quest Forward’s agile and individualized approach to education.