TEDxMeritAcademy Speaker Mas Hashimoto

Thrilled that we are hosting a TEDx event at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz! Join us on Aug 14, 2017 at 7 pm.  Get your tickets for TEDxMeritAcademy at tedxmeritacademy.com.  Meet Mas Hashimoto, one of our speakers!

Mas Hashimoto

“Japanese Incarceration vs Muslim Racism”

Remember when the American government unjustly incarcerated 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, most of whom were American citizens, during WWII?  Mas Hashimoto will compare how Japanese American incarceration during WWII and the massive discrimination of Muslims post 9-11 are both founded in hate and racism.  Learn how “Make America Great Again” really translates to “Make America White Again.”  Learn about what you can do to stop this form of racism and take active steps to protect everyone’s civil and human rights.

About Mas Hashimoto:
Mas Hashimoto was a child when his family was taken from their Watsonville home in 1942.  He was sent to a federal prisoner of war camp during WWII because of racism, war hysteria, and political leadership failure. Mas taught US History in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District until his retirement.  He speaks to groups of students about the wartime experience of Japanese Americans during WWII to ensure that this injustice never repeats itself again. Mas also headed the re-enactment of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII: “Liberty Lost; Lessons in Loyalty” in 2002, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Watsonville-Santa Cruz chapter Japanese American Citizens League.

TEDxMeritAcademy Speaker Allen Green

Thrilled that we are hosting a TEDx event at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz! Join us on Aug 14, 2017 at 7 pm.  Get your tickets for TEDxMeritAcademy at wwwtedxmeritacademy.com.  Meet Allen Green, one of our speakers!

Allen Green

“Re-Dreaming Democracy - From Plato’s Cave to Folktopia”

Allen invites us to imagine a city of possibilities, called Folktopia - since this vision of brighter futures flows from the minds of folks from all walks of life…including children and elders (rather than a singular author or lone genius). In this imaginary city, we all are called to act as visionaries to champion common causes that elevate us all. In this democratic construction, we radically restructure our social institutions - from schools, to jails, from churches to congress, using new memes to form our next norms. The dynamism of our imaginary city is driven by an economy 
of synergy that springs organically from ethical imagination applied to everyday environments. You’ll see! 

About Allen Green:
Allen Green is a futurist, facilitator and educator whose work taps the power of social imagination to advance green planning with interactive design. By combining group facilitation with multimedia communication, Allen helps draw vision into action for common causes that unite diverse interests. 

With advanced degrees in several fields, Allen has taught collaborative community planning, visionary multicultural leadership, advanced communication and landscape architecture at U.C. Davis, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, U.C. Berkeley Extension, and San Jose State University. In addition, his energetic seminars are known for inspiring involvement in civic life by people of all ages. 

His grant funded collaborations span from a music video on the San Andreas Fault to urban greening projects ranging from digital simulations to hands on site works in community gardens, ecosystem restorations, educational environments and business renovations. 

Allen has helped plan, design and organize pioneering partnerships with local leaders, service groups, public agencies, urban youth, volunteers, consultants, contractors, educators, elders and artists in every phase of project development - from fundraising to groundbreaking. 

Should We "Ban the Box" For College Applications?

Students applying to colleges know that they have to answer lots of questions on applications so the colleges can size you up to see if you fit the profile they’re looking for in their incoming class of freshmen or transfer students.  Questions focus on academic records, parent education and employment, school and extracurricular activities, and legacies.  At the end of most college applications, students are required to check 2 boxes that inquire about suspensions/expulsions and criminal records.  If they check either of the boxes, students are required to write a short essay explaining the circumstances.  Louisiana recently barred public colleges from asking about and making admissions decisions based on a student’s criminal past.

There is a growing movement supporting this ban because many students who have criminal records are not dangerous to others (petty theft) and were minors at the time of the incident.  By making it difficult for these students to become productive members of society with a college degree, we may be forcing these young people into criminal activity as adults.

Students who check the box about a criminal past are often discriminated in the competitive application process.  As a result, many students simply don’t apply to colleges and leave higher education out of their reach for future careers. 

On the flipside, should colleges have the right to know about a prospective student’s criminal history?  Let’s say the student was involved in violent behavior – or convicted of rape or other heinous activities.  Withholding a student’s record of violence, drug abuse, or other activities might prove to be a mistake when colleges build incoming classes.

This is a sensitive issue.  One on hand, teens make mistakes and should be given the opportunity to right their wrongs.  On the other hand, colleges have the right to know about their students’ past activities (academic, extracurricular, and criminal) so they can make appropriate decisions. 

Public colleges already give students the opportunity to explain the criminal record, but it appears that college admissions officers aren’t sympathetic to these types of lessons learned.  One of my female clients was sexually assaulted by a teen boy.  She punched him when he harassed her in school, and then she tried to scare him with her car as she drove past him in the school parking lot.  She was suspended but the boy walked away with no record. Granted, this was not acceptable behavior but she was denied admission from several public colleges.

What are your thoughts about “banning the box”?


The secret behind Finland’s successful schools

Secret behind Finnish schools' successRather than teach individual and isolated subjects like math, language, science, and history, Finnish schools focus on real-world issues – like climate change – and then dissect it from academic perspectives.  Sure, we’ve had our share of theme-based classrooms with holistic approaches to education in the past.  But the difference here is that the Finnish schools also teach the core foundation classes like mathematics, science, and language in regular class settings and the topic-based courses to stimulate group problem-solving discussions.  Their primary school system was ranked #1 in the world in 2016; we were ranked #39.  Hmm.

Read this article "Finland's new, weird school 'courses' say a lot about how we teach our kids" by James Gaines.  What are your thoughts?

Good news for those who DIDN'T get into a UC!

Good News! You can apply to 3 UCs and start in Jan 2018!The University of California just announced that several of their campuses will accept undergraduate admission applications for students who would like to start in winter or spring 2018.  This is good news for those who applied and didn’t get in.  By completing the UC application by July 31st, 2017, you could start at a UC as soon as Jan 2018.

Here are the campuses that are accepting applications between July 1-31, 2017:

UC Merced: Accepting applications for first-time freshmen and sophomore, junior, and senior transfer students for spring semester (starts Jan 2018).

UC Riverside: Accepting applications for sophomore, junior, and senior transfer students for winter quarter (starts Jan 2018).

UC Santa Cruz: Accepting applications for junior transfers for winter quarter (starts Jan 2018).

This is a great time to apply to these UCs because the applicant pool will be considerably smaller.  Good luck!

First Merit Academy Graduate Is Now An Emergency Medicine Doctor!

After 24 years of school (Merit Academy, Stanford Undergrad, Stanford Medical School, and Harbor-UCLA EM Residency), I’m proud to say that Nicole is officially an Emergency Medicine Doctor!

We watched her graduate with her 15 co-residents on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.  She starts her EMS Fellowship at UCSF in 2 weeks where she plans to develop efficient systems for pre-hospital care and disaster preparedness protocols.  Nicole D’Arcy was in the first graduating class at Merit Academy, and she has set the bar and serves as a role model to so many Merit students. 

Congratulations Nicole!





Accelerated Programs for Gifted Girls to Help Break the Glass Ceiling

With over a million gifted girls in the United States, it’s time to rethink holding them back for “socialization” when accelerating their education to innovating their curiosity and ability to learn, setting up and establishing their careers, and having time to raise a family will give them extraordinary advantages for the rest of their lives. Naturally, this is not for every girl.  But for those girls who are truly gifted, it allows them to have the lifestyle that want and deserve, on a timeline that works for them.

When exceptionally gifted girls remain with their peers through high school, they typically underachieve and lose motivation, become anxious, and succumb to low self-esteem. Classes are boring and homework is an exercise in busy work and brain-numbing obedience.  But according to Maureen Neihart, “The Socioaffective Impact of Acceleration and Ability Grouping: Recommendations for Best Practice,” girls who engage in accelerated programs and college classes actually produces social-emotional gains for these gifted and talented students

It would be ideal for gifted girls to move ahead together in small groups so they can support one another’s social and emotional needs in a high school or college setting.  That’s why I opened Merit Academy back in 1994.  My goal was to give both of my daughters that opportunity to develop intellectually, academically, and socio-emotionally in small groups and later in one-on-one classes at Merit.  I found that they engaged with their teachers and learned a wider breadth and depth in each of their subjects – something I’m certain they wouldn’t have received in a regular class setting. 

For gifted girls who might graduate from high school at age 14, graduate from college at 18, and receive their PhD at age 22, they have the opportunity to be fully immersed in their studies and practice their expertise and establish their careers by the time they can settled down to get married and start a family.  Women who have followed this path find that they’re more successful, land professional careers, and have plenty of time to raise a family without the burden of being in medical school while raising a young family. By accelerating gifted girls’ education, we can break the glass ceiling and women might be able to finally join the ranks of the top positions in every field – something that has been missing in every board room in corporate America.


UC Updates!

Now that May 1st has passed and seniors have accepted to their colleges (or you’re waitlisted), here are some important updates.

May 13:  Analytical Writing Placement Exam (AWPE)

May: Freshmen on the waitlists will receive notifications about admissions. If you get accepted to a college on the waitlist, contact the college that you originally accepted to so they know that you will not be attending (and so they can offer your spot to one of their students on their waitlists)

June 1: Transfer SIR (intent to register) deadline

June 30: ELC Student Contact Info Submissions deadline

July 1: Official transcript deadline

July 15: Other documents deadline (AP or IB exam scores for freshmen) or (IGETC certification for transfers)

Stay on top of your grades.  Remember, if any grades drop below a C-, you may lose admission to your college. Contact them right away to discuss your options.  If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Summer Plans for High School Students

If you’re a parent of a high school student, you’re probably getting a lot of pressure from other families to send your child to some expensive summer camps on prestigious college campuses and load them up with SAT-intensive classes.  Umm. You’re probably hearing about how your neighbor’s kid is booked solid with back-to-back camps and programs that cost thousands of dollars. And, you worry that your child won’t be able to compete in the college admissions race.

But, don’t worry that your child isn’t keeping up with the Joneses this summer because colleges aren’t looking for those kind of students. Nope!  They might want the parent, but certainly not an entitled child whose parents did the research, paid the exorbitant fees, and forced them to participate.

Instead, keep your kids home this summer and encourage them to do a project. That’s right.  By brainstorming about doing something on their own over the summer, they’ll be using their creative parts of their brains and implementing something that they build by themselves.  This teaches kids how to innovate – which will make them more confident and capable young people.  Isn’t that what every parent wants for their children?  We don’t want robots who regurgitate facts or complain about life – we want kids who solve problems by creating solutions.

And, colleges want these innovative thinkers, too!  They don’t want students who insist on having study guides for tests because they don’t want to learn anything that will not be on the test.  They want students who demonstrate that they can start projects that can solve problems or that they do what they are passionate about. 

If you want your middle or high school student to have a life-changing experience this summer, have them do a project!  Check out ProjectMERIT for ideas.

Learn more about specific classes and the many ways we can make your child's summer the turning point in their academic careers!

[Check out the brochure here!]

3 Steps to Starting a Project That Will Get You Into Top Colleges!

Worried about how your child will get into top colleges?

It still surprises me when my new teenaged clients tell ME what they need to do to impress college admissions officers. They come with their lists of AP classes, expensive summer camps, and all of the sports teams and clubs they belong to.  I smile and nod as they tell me about all of the “hard work” and how they’re “so busy” they don’t have time for anything else.  When they’re done with their monologues -- and feeling quite accomplished with themselves, I honestly can’t remember one thing they did that made them stand out amongst the other millions of kids vying for those coveted acceptances to the top colleges in the US. And that’s why their plan doesn’t work.

When everyone across this nation takes the same AP or IB classes on the exact same day each year, and they’re all taking SAT/ACT prep classes to artificially inflate their scores, perfect GPAs and SATs don’t guarantee admission into selective colleges because these students don’t stand out. So what do you need to do to get into top universities?


Yup, it’s as simple, and yet as difficult as that. Forget all the AP classes, starting or joining dozens of clubs, and dedicating ridiculous hours for practices and rehearsals. If everyone is doing them, unless you’re the MVP or you’re winning Academy Awards, it sounds like busy work – because it is.

Here’s what you need to do:

1.Choose a project

Spend time brainstorming before moving forward.  Think about issues that need to be fixed, applications that need to be written, and books that need to be published. It really doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re fascinated and passionate about it.

2.Delve into it

Research what others are doing about your idea to determine whether or not there’s room for you.  Find your niche and create your brand. Then, get the word out and grow your idea or market your product. Make calls. Be persistent. Don’t give up.

3.Realize your goal

Every step you take will get you closer to your goal.  For every student I guide, I watch doors open for them because of their persistence and their eye on the goal.  They get invited to speak at conferences or on TV/radio.  Success begets success. They accomplish their goals.

Students who do projects have fascinating stories to tell on their college admissions essays.  Nobody wants to read about your team spirit or how grateful you felt after you went to an elite summer program. Instead you’ll captivate admissions officers by telling them about overcoming the inevitable obstacles you had faced when developing an app or trying to talk to the governor. When they read about how you protected the weak or started a non-profit organization to stand up to corruption, you’ll have their undivided attention.

Colleges don’t want robotic students who are good at memorizing facts, take overwhelming AP classes and spend all their free time at practices working under coaches or directors.  These types of students will not be our future leaders of innovation or the world.  Instead, admissions officers want interesting students who find solutions to problems and have unwavering drive to reach their goals.

Naturally, these projects must be done by the student – not their parents.  If you need help with starting a project, check out my book Beat the College Admissions Game: Do a Project! or if you need support, meet with me at one of my offices or on Skype.  The ideal time to start a project is in 8th or 9th grade so you have time to develop amazing ideas.  But, I work with juniors who develop their projects just in time for applications in 12th grade.

It’s time – DO A PROJECT!