LWHS Grads Enjoy Successful, Varied, Exciting Careers

By David Kretzmann

I graduated from Living Wisdom High School in 2010. I went to Berea College in Kentucky and graduated in 2014. I studied business administration and was elected student government president two years.

After graduating, I became an investment analyst at The Motley Fool, which is where I am today, helping individual investors, and evaluating companies and recommending stocks to people to invest in.

When I reflect on my time at Living Wisdom School, I see it as an experience where I learned how to live life; recognizing that academics are important, but what really matters when you’re in junior high and high school and you’re coming up into adulthood is learning how to live life – how to be happy in what you do, making friends with what you do, and being joyful in everything you do.

I’ve carried the lessons from Living Wisdom School with me each day, whether it was in college, or now in my career. I’m really grateful for what I got out of Living Wisdom School, and I recommend the experience to anyone.


Mirabai Deranja Commer

Professional Tango Dancer

Mirabai graduated from University of California Santa Cruz University with a BA in Astronomy. She now has a thriving business as a tango teacher and performer in the San Francisco area. She shares her fascinating journey in this beautiful video.

Shyama Helin

Project Manager, ID Branding, Portland

I work with an award-winning advertising and branding firm. I am married, and we own a home situated in the north end of the city. I graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1995 with a major in Fine Arts.

I attribute my ability to communicate effectively to my Education for Life experience. The small classes and close relationships with teachers and fellow students helped me build strong bonds and gave me tools to work cooperatively with others.

As a team leader on high-stress projects in my work environment, I consistently rely on the self-centering and affirmation skills I learned at EFL. I remain closely connected with many of my school friends.

Kai Girard 

Mountain Guide, Alaska Mountaineering School; also American Alpine Institute, National Outdoor Leadership School, Outward Bound

My early memories of Living Wisdom School include outdoor pursuits that were many and varied. From exploring rivers and caves, to canoe trips and making fires in the rain with our teacher, going to school in the foothills gave us the opportunity to be outside in so many ways.

I connected with outdoor sports starting in high school, and then in an even bigger way in college at Seattle University, where I progressed from being a rock climber to a raft guide, to a trip leader. I now work as a wilderness educator for some of the best companies in the industry.

Being paid to explore, experience, and share the wilderness while participating in fun and challenging activities is certainly a great perk. But exploring, experiencing, and sharing the process of personal growth as a facilitator and educator is the real treat. Organized classes can convey a certain amount of information, but direct experience, where you are held accountable to a high standard by nature itself, really makes the lessons stick. And the most impactful learning often comes from the realization that you arrive at upon returning to the outside world. Classes may be convenient, but they remove the accountability of direct experience, where you’re forced to use your integrity and will to survive.

I might never have realized this perspective if it were not for the teachers and educators I encountered at Living Wisdom and later on as well.

The chance to try with your hands and your heart is not commonly given in most schools. The chance to try while being inspired and supported by self-assured, competent leaders is a unique and powerful way to find your interests, your abilities, and yourself. Those leaders at Living Wisdom School were the ones who inspired me to see the impact we can really have on our own lives and the lives of others. They are my role models, and now the wilderness is my classroom.

Keith Ross

Commercial Pilot

Keith flies for MC Aviation based in Santa Monica, California. He graduated in 2005 from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University with a major in aeronautical science and a minor in meteorology. He was interviewed by Susan Dermond, director of the Living Wisdom School in Portland, Oregon (and Keith’s fifth-grade teacher).

Susan: What do you remember about your experience at Living Wisdom School?

Keith: It was all fun. Of course, like any kid, I enjoyed the field trips best. But I remember all of the personal interactions and the friendships with teachers and students.

Susan: You came to Living Wisdom School from a public school. How was the transition?

Keith: Yes, in 4th grade. I attended LWS until 8th grade.

Susan: What do you think were the advantages of the education you received at LWS?

Keith: The small class size. It meant that we got lots of individual attention. I remember the caring of the teachers and the encouragement to be who you are.

Susan: Was high school difficult after our schools?

Keith: No, I graduated from high school with a 4.0 grade-point average.

Susan: Did you notice any difference between yourself and other kids you met in high school and college that you attribute to your training at LWS?

Keith: Oh, yes. I feel that I’ve really found myself, mentally, spiritually, and career-wise. And I feel that I did it at a younger age then most people.

Gita Matlock

Director of Development, Ananda Worldwide

Gita attended Education for Life schools from pre-school to 8th grade. She has worked in non-profit fundraising for thirteen years, after earning a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a master’s in Nonprofit Administration.

Q: What do you think were the advantages of going to Living Wisdom School?

Gita: I learned the life skills and tools to succeed in both higher education and life. The meditation and centering practices taught me to focus and be calm. The relationships with adults helped me transition very easily into the working world. And the values stick with me in all of my decisions.

Q: Was high school difficult after attending LWS?

Gita: No, it was very easy. I knew all I needed to know about how to get my work done and communicate with my teachers and classmates. Most of us who came from LWS ended up in the honors classes in high school.

Q: Did you notice any difference between yourself and the other kids you met in high school and college that you attribute to your education at LWS?

Gita: Yes! Many of the kids couldn’t relate well to adults and lacked a sense of self. Each of my friends from Living Wisdom School shares two major things in common: a strong sense of self and an interest in giving back to the world.

Simon Hermann

Financial Institution Specialist at Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

Simon Hermann graduated Summa Cum Laude from University of California Chico with a double major in Business and Economics. He now works as a Bank Examiner for the FDIC. He often travels around Northern California as an examiner working with teams that analyze banks’ capital, assets, management, earnings, liquidity, and sensitivity to market risk (CAMELS). The job requires considerable flexibility, since he needs to constantly change roles and responsibilities from bank to bank either weekly or monthly, depending on assignments. Simon said his work involves “the review of banks’ sensitivity to market risk. This review includes reviewing the assumptions and outputs of statistical models and simulations. How non-maturity deposit accounts react to changing interest rates is a large part of most model assumptions and is often measured through some form of regression analysis. I also need to understand the economy that our banks operate in.”


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