We are a small, independent media company on a mission to share the best of humanity with the world.
If you think the work we do matters, pre-ordering a copy of our first book would make a huge difference in helping us succeed.


Ileah Parker (left) and Alexis Vandecoevering (right)


At 16, Alexis Vandecoevering already knew she wanted to work in the fire department. Having started out as a Junior Firefighter and spending her time on calls as a volunteer with the rest of her family, she’s set herself up for a successful career as either a firefighter or EMT from a young age.

Ileah Parker also leaned into her career interests at an early age. By 16, she had completed an internship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, learning about Information Technology, Physical Therapy, Engineering, and Human Resources in healthcare, which allowed her to explore potential future pathways. She’s also a member of Eryn PiNK, an empowerment and mentoring program for black girls and young women.

While these commitments might sound like a lot for a teenager, it all comes down to school/life balance. This wouldn’t be possible for Alexis or Ileah without attending Pearson’s Connections Academy, a tuition-free online public school available in 31 states across the U.S., that not only helps students get ready for college but dive straight into college coursework and get a head start on career training as well.

“Connections Academy allowed me extensive flexibility, encouraged growth in all aspects of my life, whether academic, interpersonal, or financial, and let me explore options for my future career, schooling, and extracurricular endeavors,” said Ileah.

A recent survey by Connections Academy of over 1,000 students in grades 8-12 and over 1,000 parents or guardians across the U.S., highlights the importance of school/life balance when it comes to leading a fulfilling and successful life. The results show that students’ perception of their school/life balance has a significant impact on their time to consider career paths, with 76% of those with excellent or good school/life balance indicating they know what career path they are most interested in pursuing versus only 62% of those who have a fair to very poor school/life balance.

Additionally, students who report having a good or excellent school/life balance are more likely than their peers to report having a grade point average in the A-range (57% vs 35% of students with fair to very poor balance).

At Connections Academy, teens get guidance navigating post-secondary pathways, putting them in the best possible position for college and their careers. Connections Academy’s College and Career Readiness offering for middle and high school students connects them with employers, internships and clubs in Healthcare, IT, and Business.

“At Connections Academy, we are big proponents of encouraging students to think outside of the curriculum” added Dr. Lorna Bryant, Senior Director of Career Solutions in Pearson’s Virtual Learning division. “While academics are still very important, bringing in more career and college exposure opportunities to students during middle and high school can absolutely contribute to a more well-rounded school/life balance and help jumpstart that career search process.”

High school students can lean into career readiness curriculum by taking courses that meet their required high school credits, while also working toward micro-credentials through Coursera, and getting college credit applicable toward 150 bachelor’s degree programs in the U.S.

Alexis Vandecoevering in her firefighter uniform

Alexis, a Class of 2024 graduate, and Ileah, set to start her senior year with Connections Academy, are on track to land careers they’re passionate about, which is a key driver behind career decisions amongst students today.

Of the students surveyed who know what career field they want to pursue, passion and genuine interest is the most commonly given reasoning for both male and female students (54% and 66%, respectively).

Parents can support their kids with proper school/life balance by sharing helpful resources relating to their career interests. According to the survey, 48% of students want their parents to help them find jobs and 43% want their parents to share resources like reading materials relating to their chosen field.

While teens today have more challenges than ever to navigate, including an ever-changing job market, maintaining school/life balance and being given opportunities to explore career paths at an early age are sure to help them succeed.

Learn more about Connections Academy’s expanded College and Career Readiness offering here.


Teacher tries to simulate a dictatorship in her classroom, but the students crushed her

"I’ve done this experiment numerous times, and each year I have similar results. This year, however, was different."

Each year that I teach the book "1984" I turn my classroom into a totalitarian regime under the guise of the "common good."

I run a simulation in which I become a dictator. I tell my students that in order to battle "Senioritis," the teachers and admin have adapted an evidence-based strategy, a strategy that has "been implemented in many schools throughout the country and has had immense success." I hang posters with motivational quotes and falsified statistics, and provide a false narrative for the problem that is "Senioritis."

I tell the students that in order to help them succeed, I must implement strict classroom rules. They must raise their hand before doing anything at all, even when asking another student for a pencil. They lose points each time they don't behave as expected. They gain points by reporting other students. If someone breaks the rule and I don't see it, it's the responsibility of the other students to let me know. Those students earn bonus points. I tell students that in order for this plan to work they must "trust the process and not question their teachers." This becomes a school-wide effort. The other teachers and admin join in.

Photo by Diana Leygerman used with permission

I've done this experiment numerous times, and each year I have similar results. This year, however, was different.

This year, a handful of students did fall in line as always. The majority of students, however, rebelled.

By day two of the simulation, the students were contacting members of administration, writing letters, and creating protest posters. They were organizing against me and against the admin. They were stomping the hallways, refusing to do as they were told.

The president of the Student Government Association, whom I don't even teach, wrote an email demanding an end to this "program." He wrote that this program is "simply fascism at its worst. Statements such as these are the base of a dictatorship rule, this school, as well as this country cannot and will not fall prey to these totalitarian behaviors."

Photo by Diana Leygerman used with permission

I did everything in my power to fight their rebellion.

I "bribed" the president of the SGA. I "forced" him to publicly "resign." And, yet, the students did not back down. They fought even harder. They were more vigilant. They became more organized. They found a new leader. They were more than ready to fight. They knew they would win in numbers.

I ended the experiment two days earlier than I had planned because their rebellion was so strong and overwhelming. For the first time since I've done this experiment, the students "won."

What I learned is this: Teenagers will be the ones to save us.

Just like Emma Gonzalez, the teen activist from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, my students did not back down nor conform. They fought for their rights. They won.

Adults can learn a lot from the teens of this generations. Adults are complacent, jaded, and disparaged. Teenagers are ignited, spirited, and take no prisoners. Do not squander their fight. They really are our future. Do not call them entitled. That entitlement is their drive and their passion. Do not get in their way. They will crush you.

Foster their rebellion. They are our best allies.

This story originally appeared on Medium and is reprinted here with permission. It was originally published on 2.21.18.

Maddie Cable turns her brace into armor.

High school is tough enough for the average 17-year-old girl. Anyone who stands out is a target for whispers and hushed laughter in the in hallways or, at worst, public ridicule.

That's why Maddie Cable, 17, from Charlotte, North Carolina, was less than enthusiastic after being told she needed to wear a large plastic brace to school for at least six weeks.

Cable was in a car accident with her mother in November, and she fractured her T12 vertebra. After doctors stabilized it with rods and pins, Maddie was fitted with the massive brace.

modern medicine, high school, steampunk, cosplay

Maddie Cable stands with aid of walker and plastic brace.

via Epbot

"At first, I felt very self-conscious about the brace," Cable told Buzzfeed. Then her friend Sarah Chako had the brilliant idea of turning the bland-looking brace into a badass steampunk armor corset using metallic spray paint, gear-shaped stencils, acrylic paint, and metal framing trim. Steampunk is a sci-fi/retro style that combines futuristic steam-powered designs and American "Wild West" aesthetics.

creatives, art, costumes, friends, collaboration

Maddie models the super-cool-transformation of her plastic brace.

via Epbot

"I enjoy wearing it now," Cable said. "It makes me feel more confident." Her mother is pleased, too. "People are initiating conversation instead of just staring," Cable's mom, Linda, told HuffPost. "She feels like they see her, and not just her injury."

Cable's story is a great example of what you can do with some creative thinking, good friends, and steampunk power. She turned a depressing situation into an opportunity to express herself.

This article originally appeared on 09.12.17

Pop Culture

Sephora employee recalls a 10-year-old's 'unhinged' fight with mom over $900 haul

Sephora employee Natalia Herrera says parents "who aren't parenting" are to blame for the rise of unruly "Sephora kids."


A Sephora employees recalls a recent meltdown that a 10-year-old shopper had.

Social media has been teeming lately with videos of young girls, otherwise known as “Sephora kids,” crowding the aisles of the well-known beauty retailer, loading up on expensive makeup and skincare products that many worry are not suitable for children.

Many parents believe that a lack of third spaces, along with the demographic being prime targets for online advertisement, as being the source of this phenomenon. And while those factors most certainly play a role, one story shared by an actual Sephora employee suggests that a lack of parental involvement is also to blame.

Recently, Natalia Herrera (@natsodrizzy on TikTok) went viral after sharing a recent “unhinged” reaction by a young girl she was ringing up. The girl, somewhere between the age of 9-11, Herrera guessed, approached her with a basket “literally overflowing” with beauty products. She then told Herrera to ring up two bottles of perfume that were held behind the register first. Those alone cost around $300.

sephora kids, sephora tiktok, sephora

Herrera's reaction to ringing up nearly $900 worth of products.


Much to Herrera’s surprise, the young girl instructed her to continue ringing up the other products. At this point, Herrara began to wonder where an actual parent or guardian was.

“Like…who is this little girl with?” Herrera thought to herself as she scanned nearly $900 worth of products.

At that point, the little girl nervously looked over to another register where another employee was checking out her mother and sister. She called the sister over, who nonchalantly shared that her personal haul came out to $500.

This shocked Herrera, but not nearly as much as the little girl telling her sister “I'm probably just going to use Mom's money” to take care of her hefty purchase.

However, when the little girl told her mom of the total, "the mom freaked out,” and when ordered her to take some things out, the little girl “lost her mind.” Even when she did finally acquiesce to taking off some items, the girl bluntly said “I’m not taking anything else out.”

sephora kids, sephora tiktok

“I’m sorry…who’s the mom here?"


Herrera, appalled that the mom tolerated that kind of behavior, stated, “I’m sorry…who’s the mom here? This is the problem…The problem is the parents because why aren't you sitting there holding your ground?"

"These iPad kids, these little girls have never heard the word 'no.' They kind of just get what they want so they can shut up and the parents can go on with their day,” she said in the clip.

Herrera had no choice but to keep watching as the heated argument unfolded. Trying to be helpful and move the situationaling, she asked the little girl if she really needed three of the same lip gloss. But that proved unsuccessful, as the girl replied, “yeah I know that there’s three.”

‘I didn’t know what to do,” Herrera shared.

After minutes of more back-and-forth, the tween ended up with a $500 total instead of $900, which the mom was okay with.

The whole debacle left Herrera with one conclusion: "These 10-year-old girls at Sephora are crazy, but what's crazier is the parents that aren't parenting,” adding that “nothing is going to change'' without more parent involvement.

@natsodrizzy these kids need to go touch some grass #sephora #fyp #sephorakids #preteens #ipadkids #ipadkidsarescary ♬ original sound - nat

In one regard, the Sephora kid craze is nothing new. Almost any adult woman can remember wanting to emulate grown-ups during their childhood—playing with makeup, wanting to shave their legs, maybe experimenting with fashion choices. As Teen Vogue contributor Fortesa Latifi eloquently points out, some of the reactions to this fairly natural phase of life could be “another way we judge and shame young girls, putting limits on their girlhood, casting their desires as silly or superfluous.”

But when it gets to the point that kids actually assume the role of a grown-up, especially in the presence of grown-ups, it’s easy to see how that can be troubling. Shaming anyone certainly isn’t the answer, but since this culture of depleted community resources and monetizing insecurities has been created by adults, it stands to reason that the onus should be on them. For parents, that might mean educating themselves and their kids about skincare, teaching them to show respect while shopping, establishing healthy boundaries and of course…prioritizing social media literacy.

sephora kids, sephora, makeup, makeup for young girls

Could they be growing up too fast?


Basically, parenting might have gone through some major glow-ups over the years, but some things remain the same.