By Susan Tomases
The pandemic has thrown much into question, not the least of which is the value of a four-year higher education experience with a questionable future of gainful employment or the funds to pay back six-figure loans. There are an abundance of gap-year programs these days, but COVID-19 has prevented many from providing opportunities for participants to travel or deliver service locally, nationally, and especially internationally.
With colleges and universities experiencing a downturn (Smalley, 2020) in applications and shrinking state and federal funding resources, options for high school graduates and others looking to expand their education beyond the classroom, attain adaptable life skills, and even kick start a career feels bleak.
Is this the post-secondary reset that many pundits predicted?
For students with dyslexia and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the options seem even more limited. However, there is a fascinating phenomenon indicating that a whopping 35% of American entrepreneurs have dyslexia. This bodes well for students with these learning differences. According to an article from the American Management Association, people with dyslexia excel in oral communications, problem solving, delegation, and spatial awareness (American Management Association, 2019). So it was no surprise to learn that there is a program tucked away in the corner of a renovated mill building in Amesbury, Massachusetts, cultivating the creativity, drive, and motivation of recent high school graduates and even some veteran professionals with dyslexia and/or ADHD. Meet InventiveLabs, run by successful, forward-thinking entrepreneurs Rick Fiery and Tom Bergeron.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, inquiries to InventiveLabs have nearly doubled. Despite other post-secondary programs that are remote or hybrid, they offer a daily, in-person gap-year program focused on entrepreneurship and career preparation. InventiveLabs used the spring and summer of 2020, finishing up in December, to review applications, interview candidates, and implement extensive health-and-safety protocols.
“The online college experience for students with dyslexia and/or ADHD was not appealing and didn’t work—in fact, it was thoroughly demoralizing for these bright and creative people” co-founder Rick Fiery said. “The average age range of our inventives (participants) is 20–24 years old. The program is ideal for innovators who may have struggled in school in the past due to an unconventional learning style as a result of having dyslexia and/or ADHD. We have found that this makes them uniquely ingenious, out-of-the-box thinkers. InventiveLabs offers a two-term program for students looking to start a company or pursue a gap year to figure out what they want to do next. We offer our inventives individualized opportunities for exploration, personality tests, YouScience, we brainstorm passions, strengths, and weaknesses, provide mentoring, resume building, guidance on courses to take to fill in the gaps, and so much more. At the end of the program, our inventives have an educational path.”
The InventiveLabs state-of-the-art facilities, program, and leaders serve their participants holistically by offering computer and gaming lab spaces, woodworking and digital printing workshops, and other maker’s spaces all located within their 10,000 square feet of learning area. There are even two kitchens in their headquarters where a professional chef teaches health, nutrition, and cooking. Inventives are housed nearby in apartments where they live independently.
Life as we know it, post COVID-19, is unclear but we have hope that there will be more empowered and prepared entrepreneurs to influence our workforce, economy, and culture in the future thanks to programs like InventiveLabs.
Susan Tomases is the director of Marketing and Communications at Landmark School.
- Distraction Podcast with Ned Hallowell and Rick Fiery: Now is the Time to Rethink Your Plans
- ADDitude Magazine Podcast: Engaging Career Paths for Teens and Young Adults with ADHD
Smalley, Andrew, “Mounting Uncertainty for Colleges and Universities: States Facing Challenges as COVID-19 Radically Reshapes Higher Education.” National Conference of State Legislatures, Sept. 23, 2020, https://www.ncsl.org/bookstore/state-legislatures-magazine/covid-19-brings-new-uncertainty-for-schools-at-all-levels-magazine2020.aspx. Accessed Nov. 1, 2020.
“New Research Reveals Many Entrepreneurs Are Dyslexic.” American Management Association, Jan. 24, 2019, https://www.amanet.org/articles/new-research-reveals-many-entrepreneurs-are-dyslexic/#:~:text=A%20staggering%2035%25%20of%20U.S.,at%20London's%20Cass%20Business%20School, accessed Nov. 1, 2020.