Reprinted from the OC Magazine, March, 2015
Elijah Blanton is currently a senior at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and plans to graduate in June. His undergrad experience has built upon his life prior to college: non-traditional, self-directed and full of rich experiences.
The summer after graduating from OC, Elijah worked for a landscaping company to save up for college. He was planning to attend a four-year college but didn’t feel drawn to the typical college experience—he was looking for something more meaningful. Elijah was accepted in 2011 as one of only twenty-five students in Antioch’s first incoming class after reopening. Let’s back up a bit: Antioch College was a part of the larger Antioch University but was closed by the University in 2008. A group of alumni bought the college back, hired a small faculty and staff, and reopened in 2011. Elijah was drawn to the college because of this interesting series of events, not to mention that tuition was free! So, as you can imagine, the first year was a challenge. There was some curriculum in place, no cafeteria, and only six faculty. Because of the small student population there was a lot of pressure to perform and to be involved leading many people to leave within the first year and a half. This was hard since it was such a small, tight knit community. Elijah became highly involved and invested, obtaining a paid position as Community Council President. Because of this and his network of support, he was able to make it through those rough times. He is now in his last year and is a Resident Assistant. The college now has a cafeteria, over 200 students and is a candidate for accreditation, which among other things will enable them to receive government support.
One important piece of the Antioch experience is co-op, a three-month work-study program for one quarter of every year. Elijah’s first co-op was at a children’s museum in Dayton, Ohio, working in the gift shop and leading tours. In the winter of 2012 he went to New Orleans where he lived with his sister, helped to renovate her house and worked for The Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, rehabilitating housing for volunteers. For his third co-op he went to Washington, D.C., to work for a communications firm focused on public relations for international humanitarian issues. This year [2014-15], for his final co-op, he traveled to Chichigalpa, Nicaragua to work for La Isla Foundation (LIF). Elijah researched and gathered history for the local community and worked to start a community garden. The community garden didn’t take off, but Elijah’s Spanish improved.
This wasn’t the usual college experience; it has been more like a project Elijah was drawn to probably because of his experience as an unschooler. Having followed his interests and passions and having already taken some college courses (at Montgomery County Community College), he wasn’t interested in the typical college path. At Antioch he has found rich experiences and a diverse community.
Memorable moments of Elijah’s OC experience include Tutorial with Julia, Politics and Current Events with Mike, a resume-building workshop (he’s still using the resume template he created at OC), and the Theater program with Lucy. He appreciated the atmosphere of OC and the emphasis on self-motivation.
Since his OC days, Elijah feels that his thinking about education has changed a lot. He realizes how important diversity is and would like to see OC continue to become more diverse. Looking back, he wishes there had been more consistent challenges to his thinking, something that he has found in his Antioch experience. He’s also appreciated the more organized classroom experience of college, a contrast to his experience as an unschooler. At Antioch, he’s found deadlines and assigned reading valuable, and thinks that alternative education communities (who may at times shy away from the rigidity of deadlines and assignments) could benefit from more organized learning experiences, which would still need to remain intentional and self-directed.