“The DNA of Innovation”: New President Arra Yerganian Brings Silicon Valley Experience to Laurel Springs School
Arra Yerganian’s earliest experiences molded his passion for education.
His father was a scientist and Harvard professor. The bumper of the family car once displayed a sticker that read, “If you think education is expensive, consider ignorance.”
As a student at Boston Latin School– a liberal arts-focused high school that educated great American minds like John Hancock and Samuel Adams – Arra was encouraged to think independently, form ideas, and examine the world.
Some early academic experiences become part of rote memory or are entirely forgotten. But Arra says he and his classmates developed a steadfast thread between them during those years – a dedication to lifelong learning due, in part, to an educational model that valued open-mindedness in favor of rigidity.
“You’re there [in school] with your closest pals, but as attrition continues, the one common denominator in the school was the pursuit of learning more,” Arra says.
As the newly-named president, Arra is excited that his devotion to education as a holistic endeavor is right in line with the mission of Laurel Springs School. As his Silicon Valley roots have taught him, there are no cookie cutter solutions that perfectly fit into people’s lives. There’s always another way – a better way for some. Education is no different.
“A Unique Time of Change”
The coronavirus pandemic shone a direct light on the limitations of brick-and-mortar classrooms, Arra says.
Out of necessity to balance life, home, and work in the same space, many children did their schoolwork outside of traditional hours. Parents recognized that certain times of day were more conducive to learning. They began to see that it’s unnecessary to narrow the time of day for learning and that including play, sports, and passion projects within those hours adds value rather than detracts.
Arra sees similarities between this new K-12 education perspective and the world of marketing/sales. He spent the last two decades of his career working with companies like Benchmark Capital & Google Ventures-backed One Medical and University of Phoenix. The focus for both industries right now, he says, is on efforts to provide alternative solutions and experiences to consumers that go beyond the status quo.
That’s exactly what parents of K-12 students are looking for right now,” Arra says. “The past year has opened eyes to the limitations of a traditional classroom environment and the ways students can balance a rigorous academic calendar with other things that make them happy.”
Students today need flexibility that is inherent in an online K-12 program to incorporate their passions, master academic material, and build their own educational pursuits. In the end, those students will embark on fulfilling career paths that make a difference in the world.
“We’re at a unique time of change,” Arra says. “With remote work and flexible work schedules, families have become active participants of their children’s education. Laurel Springs embraces that model.”
The Laurel Springs Difference
Education should be about engaging learning that values students as individuals. That’s what Laurel Springs does, Arra says.
The vision of the school is one of the reasons he was attracted to the position of president. In the same way that technology in Silicon Valley never sits still, Laurel Springs seeks to provide a holistic education delivered by instructors and administrators of the highest quality through state-of-the-art platforms. It’s rigorous. It’s engaging. And most of all – it’s flexible.
“We seek to expand young people’s minds and help them pursue their personal passions,” Arra says. “It fits the way I think about life. It’s about fulfillment.”
At Laurel Springs, students are “learning and doing” as they progress through their individualized program. They do not do busy work. Their personal passions and pursuits are incorporated into their education path. If they have an interest, they are encouraged to explore it along with their core coursework.
Students can take single courses to catch up, get ahead, or reinforce concepts. They can bolster their academic transcripts to stand out in an uber-competitive college admissions landscape through a purposive postgraduate gap year. And, best of all, they can build community through events that nurture social-emotional growth and allow for students from all over the world to connect with one another.
Vision for the Future of Laurel Springs School
Moving forward, Arra hopes to increase partnerships between alumni and current students, as well as explore possible opportunities with businesses and corporations as part of students’ individualized program paths.
Silicon Valley is the birthplace of creators and thinkers and has spawned amazing companies, which Arra says inspires him as he envisions the way tech and education can collaborate.
He is currently in brainstorm mode and enjoys listing off “What if’s” as he ponders ideas for the future because that’s how dreams become reality.
“What if there was a LinkedIn, Jr. for high school students, for example?,” Arra says, smiling as he describes the idea. “The entire [Silicon] Valley has a spirit of innovation and new ways of thinking. We want to be where they turn to partner, to bring young students in for internships, or provide exposure to new thinking.”
Arra said he is also inspired by Laurel Springs School itself. If there is a private or public brick-and-mortar school that’s as far-reaching as Laurel Springs and in line with the culture of constant invention and reinvention of education solutions that value excellence and flexibility, Arra says he has not seen it.
“Silicon Valley has a DNA of innovation and new ways of thinking, and Laurel Springs is made of that same DNA,” Arra says.