For third-year Curry student Keaton Wadzinski, the value of an education goes beyond a number on a tuition bill. At the University, Wadzinski founded ReinventED Lab — a nonprofit organization working to incorporate creative problem-solving in education.
“I view life as this combination of problem-solving and this combination of education because, when you boil it down, almost everything you do is a learning experience,” Wadzinski said. “I see education as so powerful — it seems to be this big generic key that can unlock other potential.”
Wadzinski's belief in the importance of education drove him to work on a series of different projects after his senior year in high school. A Youth and Social Innovation major, Wadzinski has worked for Student Voice and interned with 4.0 Schools, a community of entrepreneurs working to make schools better for children. Wadzinski used the 4.0 Schools model to develop ReinventED Lab, and he received support and coaching from the organization’s staff.
Although Wadzinski came up with the idea for ReinventED, second-year College students Blair McAvoy and Jared Jones soon became part of the organization. Now, there are a total of 12 students involved.
“I guess I always kind of knew I wanted to work in education because it's so fundamental,” McAvoy said. “If you want to see societal change, you can do it through education.”
ReinventED’s main goal is to unite a community around education innovation and equip members with the resources to make their ideas into realities. When approaching education issues, ReinventED focuses on using creative problem-solving.
“[Creative problem-solving] is the process for how we approach problems,” Wadzinski said. “It’s the combination of keeping an open mind and treating things like projects that you’re testing out. [It’s about] just spit-balling a bunch of ideas instead of stopping people that are coming up with ideas that seem too radical. [What we’re] trying to do with this process is come up with as many and as diverse ideas as possible because you never know what idea might trigger another idea.”
For ReinventED Lab, creative problem-solving also involves prototyping, the process of developing ideas into tangible projects. By equipping members with creative problem-solving skills, ReinventED hopes to make education innovation easier for all.
“I'm most excited to able to see an actual observable difference — to really make a change,” McAvoy said.
Although the organization plans to focus on initiatives in the Charlottesville area, it will also examine how to implement education innovation on a national level.
“I think the [4.0 Schools] Community Catalyst Network approach is probably the most innovative way to attack the problem of scale,” Wadzinski said. “‘How can we make sure this will work in another place?’ The Community Catalyst approach is ‘Let’s build things that work in our places and share those ideas with each other.’”
ReinventED is currently working on six different projects in Charlottesville. Next month, the organization will launch its first program, the ReinventED 24-Hour Challenge. This event includes a problem-solving seminar for college students deciding what to do after they graduate.
“The ReinventED 24-Hour Challenge is for students and supporters of students to come in and work on this problem that all students experience of, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’” Wadzinski said. “That existential crises really hits home for a lot of us. The idea is to use this open mindset in how we approach that question.”
For Wadzinski, the rest of his time at the University will be spent executing events and working on projects with ReinventED. After he graduates, Wadzinski plans on working with ReinventED fulltime.
“The goal is to stay fulltime in Charlottesville, collaborate with a national network of 4.0 schools, help other communities create what we’re trying to create with ReinventED [and] share a lot of the learning experiences that we’ve had,” Wadzinski said.