Hi, my name is Simon Gabriel. I am a scholar in the first cohort of a new program offered by Action Horizon Institute of Technology.

Daniel immerses each student in an experience that unlocks their potential

I asked Daniel if I could write this post because I want to make sure you know what the program is like from the perspective of a student in the program. Before I made the decision to apply I was hesitant because I didn’t want to do anything “school related”. I did not do well in school and I was not accepted into college. Why would I try to get into another school-related program if they don’t seem to want me?

How does Daniel find students to be in the program?

Daniel was in search of recent high school graduates who were still finding their way in life and had a lot of potential to do great things. To find these students, he reached out to the Princeton High School Guidance office. His first point of contact was with the Director of Community Service and Tutoring Programs, Dr. Andrea Dinan.

Daniel said that his circle of influence in this situation was Dr. Dinan. He always teaches us about the process he’s going through so that we learn how to use the same ideas for accomplishing our own ideas and starting our own initiatives in the local community. I also liked that he asked us for our ideas on how to improve the program and always wanted to know when we liked and disliked something. It made me feel like I was important.

Through the relationship Daniel developed with Dr. Dinan, he was able to start the process of connecting with students like me. Dr. Dinan spoke with other guidance counselors as well as recent graduates like myself in order to setup a time for an initial meeting. I am thankful to Dr. Dinan for going out of her way to facilitate the connection between Daniel and I.

Initial Meeting

My high school guidance counselor, Kristina Donovan, heard from Dr. Dinan that there was a new program being planned to help high school graduates “carve out a place for themselves in the new economy”. Kristina mentioned to Dr. Dinan that I might be a good fit. The next step was to meet Daniel in person. Dr. Dinan scheduled a time for the three of us to meet at the Princeton Public Library.

When Daniel and I met for the first time we immediately clicked. I could tell he knew what he was doing. There was no doubt that he is on a mission to help others.

Vision Talks and Champagne Moments

The next time we met was with one additional student, Sindy (that’s me and her in the picture at the top of this post!). We met at small world coffee on Witherspoon in Princeton. Daniel asked us about our future. He asked us to think about our purpose.

He asked us what our vision was for the world. These were all questions I had not thought about before. It was hard to talk about these ideas at first, but after a few minutes it started picking up speed. I liked that we took turns being the center of attention for each other. When it was my turn, Daniel and Sindy focused on me and my future. They helped me come up with a long list of ideas that might help me reach my long and short term goals.

Dan called completing these small goals “champagne moments” which means to me a moment that I can celebrate and look back at with joy – it is a moment when I know that I have achieved something that I had to work hard for. He used the comparison to the Stanley Cup championship. When a team wins the last game of the hockey season there is champagne spraying everything, people are screaming, and it’s obvious that this “champagne moment” is a sign that the players on that team have made it the place they worked so hard to get to. Daniel asked us to think about a moment like that for own lives.

We out lined these goals and talked about our passions and what we want to do with them in the future and how our passions could help the community.

Mozilla Learning Club

He helped culminate our past experiences and consolidate them into a portfolio. We started to meet every Wednesday to discuss our progress and share any obstacles we were running into so that members of the community could help us brainstorm solutions.

Daniel applied to Mozilla to get our group recognized as a Mozilla Learning Club – they accepted us and listed us on their website in less than 72 hours.

Mozilla Learning Club Action Horizon Institute

Since that second meeting in September I have had a few good champagne moments like getting my driver’s license, building a digital portfolio to showcase my skills and experiences, and I narrowed down my list of goals to accomplish. Over the next few months this evolved into my professional career plan. Basically, it is a snapshot of my future and it outlines the next 6-12 months in detail and highlights a few potential moments in the distant future – my plan reaches out about five years into the future.

Roadmap – Professional Career Plan – Personal Learning Plan

Daniel worked closely with me these last few months on my roadmap, or as he calls it: professional career plan. It took me a long time to finish because it required many drafts and brainstorming sessions and feedback from the other scholars, my mentors, and my family. Some days I would meet with Daniel one-to-one, and others with the group. It depended on what the purpose of the meeting was.

In order to hold myself accountable I published the plan on the home page of my new digital portfolio that Daniel helped me build. I built the entire website on my own – Daniel was next to me to show me how to work through the process, but I was still able to do it all on my own. I did not realize how much planning and effort goes into making a really nice product. We probably spent about three hours just doing the planning. Daniel helped me lay out a prototype of the site on a desk in order to help me think through potential ideas and get closer to a refined outline. After a total of about 10 hours working together on the website I am already so much more advanced than I was when we started. I am doing things on my own, I can edit most parts of the site without help, and I am beginning to write updates on the site to make sure you know what I am up to and what cool stuff I am experiencing and learning. Not to mention, I have an awesome website to document my travels now!

Now I am confident about the plan and each part seems to be realistic for me to accomplish. The plan will change from time to time, but if I stay on track I can look back in five years and see that I just arrived to the place in my life that I thought was nearly impossible to reach.

Create new opportunities for yourself

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be a scholar in the first cohort of Action Horizon Institute of Technology
Daniel can take a student of any age and immerse them in an experience which will “crack open their potential”, as he likes to call the process, and make it easy for them to advocate for themselves through new media, volunteer work, mentorship, and self-directed learning and life planning.

The end goal as I see it is to teach the student how to pursue their passion and make it into a flourishing business with the potential of helping other.

The only reason I was willing to first meet with Daniel was because I had a great relationship with my guidance counselor. When she insisted that I at least meet with Daniel to hear him out I had a feeling I should probably listen to her advice.

I wanted to write this post for Daniel because he really went out of his way for us this semester. Trust me, he knows more about what you might going through than you think because he was once in your position. Give him and the program a shot – it will improve your life.

Since working with Daniel I have been inspired to think bigger about what I can do in my life. He helped me see that my life experiences are the things that determine where my life goes. He helped me believe in my ability to pursue my passions, and also how to build the plan that I can follow in order to realize my dreams. It might sound cheesy, but I think that’s because it’s THAT good.

I am excited to meet all of the new scholars in the second cohort which starts in March 2016. I will be back from my trip to India in time for the first meetup – see you then!

Simon Gabriel, Founding Scholar | Action Horizon Institute of Technology