Collaboration with ed tech pioneer, Odysseyware, taps potential of digital learning to cultivate growth mindset among high school students in Flint, Michigan

Press Release Date: 
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

FENTON, MI -- October 22, 2018 -- Dr. Adam Hartley, Superintendent of Fenton Area Public Schools, has received  Tech Edvocate’s 2018 Best K-12 School Leader Award. The award, which recognizes outstanding companies, people, and products in educational technology, reflects Dr. Hartley’s success in building out  GEARUp Academy, a non-traditional high school in Flint that balances an online core curriculum with in-person experiences involving civic engagement and internships with local business partners. 
“Learning does not occur in a box or only during daytime hours,” says Dr. Hartley whose work with the nonprofit leadership organization, GEARUp2Lead, inspired him to create GEARUp Academy in 2015. “We wanted to create a different type of school to empower young adults to see themselves as change agents at a time when many students feel like failures in the walls built around them in a traditional school structure.” 

GEARUp Academy’s unique approach is rooted in emphasizing four components:  Growth Mindset, Empathy, Action, and Responsibility (GEAR). With an initial cohort of only 8 students, Dr. Hartley further developed GEARUp Academy by partnering with Fenton Area Public Schools. Through the partnership, he was able to utilize the expertise of local area teachers to facilitate online courses as well as integrate personalized learning software from Odysseyware, an industry leading educational technology developer, into their growth-mindset curriculum.  

The curriculum is inspired by the popular TEDx Talk, My Philosophy for a Happy Life, and an award-winning HBO documentary, Life According to Sam - both of which focus on a high school student named Sam Berns who exhibits resilience despite suffering from the illness of progeria. Using the Odysseyware platform, Dr. Hartley infused the story of Sam Berns and the GEARUp components into existing standards-aligned courses already being taught online by teachers - creating a learning experience that combines both rigor and personalization. 

“Dr. Hartley’s tireless dedication to his community is evident in the ways he uses education technology to go above and beyond in creating transformative pathways for the students he serves,” says Odysseyware CEO Matt Given. “We commend his innovative leadership and congratulate him and the entire GEARUp team on this very well-deserved award.”   

In the last year, GEARUp Academy has experienced dramatic growth and enrolled more than 50 students. The mass transit bus system in area now includes routes to and from GEARUp Academy and the school is open to all students regardless of where they live. GEARUp Academy serves as a particularly useful option for those who may be otherwise boxed out of a traditional setting, and through collaboration with the Genesee County Court system, some students are also appointed to attend the school as part of juvenile rehabilitation efforts. 

The teaching of growth mindset concepts to students in Flint and the surrounding area is particularly salient right now. While the troubles of Flint have been well documented, Dr. Hartley is a firm believer that authentic resilience is attainable in any condition, noting that “You still have students taking showers with bottled water, students who have been exposed to lead in the water; however, at GEARUp Academy we emphasize that your zip-code doesn’t define you - and the barriers the students are up against is what they use to establish the growth mindset and establish empathy with one another.” 

About Odysseyware 
For more than forty years, Odysseyware has been at the forefront of innovation in learning. Our personalized instructional tools harness the transformative potential of technology to empower educators to deliver a rigorous educational experience in core academic subjects along with enrichment activities, electives, and new career pathways. To learn more, visit or call 877-795-8904.

Media Contact
Dana Laursen, 720-318-6951,