K12 in Haiti: The Power of Online Education

As a Director of International Business Development at K¹², I have the privilege of creating enrollment centers for the K¹² International Academy (iCademy), as well as partnerships with schools around the world to enhance their curricular offerings with K¹²’s innovative online courses. If I was asked to envision a dream job, this is definitely it. From Montevideo to Dakar, and Islamabad to Monterrey and Singapore, K¹² is expanding our mission to provide any child access to exceptional curriculum and tools that enable him or her to maximize his or her success in life, regardless of geographic, financial, or demographic circumstance.

One international partnership of special mention is our partnership with the Union School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. K¹² developed this partnership in August of 2009 to provide supplemental online high school courses for their students, including AP, world languages and core Math courses that the school was not able to offer in the traditional classroom setting. When the earthquake hit Haiti, I reached out to their Director, Marie Baptiste, to offer K¹²’s support to their school. Marie responded within a week with an update that all of her students survived the disaster, that the school building had been damaged and deemed unsafe for the students, and that a majority of teachers had evacuated the country. She expressed her desire to have her students who remained in the country continue their academic year with the iCademy program. K¹²’s leadership stepped up with the offer to sponsor the students tuition-free in the iCademy and to provide free laptops for the students.

Darby Carr, the iCademy Headmaster, and I have been working with the school for the past few weeks to coordinate the launch of our expanded partnership with the school. Sixteen students will begin online classes on February 22nd. The students will convene daily in vacated teacher apartments to work with learning coaches to progress through our curriculum and will be supported by iCademy online teachers. I traveled to Haiti this weekend to assist the school with our program, and will provide regular updates about the student population, the education model, and the larger Haitian community.

Darby and I had the opportunity to spend time with Marie at an international schools conference this past weekend in Boston. Marie was born in Haiti and moved to New York when she was six years old. She married a fellow Haitian-American and moved her family back to Haiti twenty years ago to join the team at Union School. She shared stories with her international school colleagues in Boston about the effects of the disaster on her school community and how the thirty five seconds of the earthquake changed her life forever. She considered it miraculous that all of her students survived the earthquake, which is in large part due to her insistence that the students depart the school building by 4 pm to go home to study for the exams taking place the next day. Typically, she noted, the school building would be full of students until after 5 pm. When the earthquake hit shortly before 5 pm and concrete began flying throughout the school building, only one student was left in the building and that student and staff escaped safely. The school did unfortunately lose one staff member, their Physical Education teacher, who lost his life when he went back into his family’s house to rescue a young child. The young child, however, was found safe in his arms when the teacher’s body was recovered from the collapsed house. He is one of the thousands of heroes in Haiti in the wake of the earthquake.

My contributions to the thinkthanK¹² blog over the next few weeks will be an effort to keep our K¹² community informed of the project with the Union School in Haiti and to inspire our community to continue looking at the global landscape as an endless opportunity for us to touch the world through the power of online education!

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