We had the good fortune of connecting with Aaron Scholl and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aaron, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
With two small children, two full time jobs, and co-running a non-profit, work-life balance is a huge challenge. That wasn’t always the case though. When we first launched Education is Forever back in 2016, we were young and had few commitments outside of our day jobs. We could spend evenings working on programming and weekends doing fundraisers. While we had some help and guidance, Irene and I did most things to launch and run the organization. While that isn’t possible with our lives now, it has actually been a major benefit to the organization.
There is a Hindi term, jugaad, that roughly translates to innovation born of scarcity. When our time became scarce, we looked around at our other assets and tried to find a different solution. We ended up bringing on an incredible team of founding board members to help us run the organization. That decision was the best thing we ever did. Our student success rate went from 65% to 100% this past year, and I attribute all of that to the incredible team we have. In addition to our board members, we have a group of volunteer mentors who meet directly with students. Those mentors make a huge difference in our students’ lives.
Since our second child came a few months ago, we are really working towards hiring a staff member who can help us run this organization on a daily basis. Non-profits frequently utilize volunteer support, but we are at a place where we need someone with expertise to dedicate themselves to the mission of the organization on a daily basis. Having that staff member represents a major step forward to the sustainability of our organization.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Education is Forever was simply born out of the needs of our students. Our students come from a little-known category of schools called Workforce Development high schools where they can earn a wage while learning a trade, such as construction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost all students who attend these schools are classified as low-income have overcome exceptional challenges in their childhood. As a teacher who worked in these schools, I found that many of our students attended workforce development schools because they needed a wage- not from a genuine desire to learn construction. In fact, many students yearned to go to on college and become teachers, lawyers, and engineers. The problem was, workforce development schools are often set up to prepare students for work- not college.
Education is Forever was founded on the principle that these students deserve an opportunity to attend college, even if their dire financial situation made them want to attend a workforce development high school. We offer students an opportunity to apply to our program in their last year of high school, then we support them in their transition. Students who are selected to become Education is Forever Scholars receive financial support as well as coaching and mentorship. As a result of our programming, we are seeing college success rates 10 times higher than students who do not participate.
While these successes are encouraging, we still have a long way to go. Due to funding constraints, we are unable to serve all of the students who want to sign up. Each year we are forced to turn away dozens of students who want our support. In future years, we are looking forward to building our capacity to give every student the opportunity to be part of our program.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LA has so many incredible things to offer! First, I would take my imaginary best friend to the beach for a day of surfing and sailing. I am a waterman and I think the beaches are one of best parts of LA. For food, we’d hit up some taquerias! Our house also loves our soup noodles, so we’d go to our favorite ramen spot, HiroNori Craft Ramen. For drinks, we’d go to our local brewery, 10 Mile Brewery. We love that place. LA also has some great museums that are starting to open up again. I think a tour of the museums would definitely make the list. Hiking is also a must, but I would skip the Hollywood sign. I’d go up to Malibu Creek and climb around the waterfalls.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shoutout to my incredible wife, Irene. In the beginning, it was her idea to forgo a diamond ring and found this organization. More recently, it was her idea to forgo buying a single family home for us and invest in a multi family property where we can house formerly homeless students. I often find myself trying to enact her vision for the organization while she does the hard, often under-appreciated work, of mothering our children. She is a fierce advocate for both our students and our family. I am always awestruck by the strength of her heart. Thank you, Irene.