From the Magazine

INCENTIVIZING POSITIVITY TO BEAT NEGATIVITY

“Students are lighting up like Christmas trees – they are learning in a way where, suddenly, they are making the decision to do the right thing instead of being told to do the right thing.”

KENNETH NELSON
EPIC Academy

True power couples are a force with which to be reckoned, and in Sallis, Mississippi, one power couple is changing education by using Empowered resources and concepts as a primary tool in their new K-12 school.

Kenneth and Traciellya Nelson left successful public-school careers to start EPIC Academy in the fall of 2022, and, after attending the RiseUp 2022 conference in Jackson, Mississippi, they knew partnering with Empowered was a perfect fit.

Pictures of learning at EPIC Academy.

“It was off the chain from the start,” said Kenneth. “It’s not your normal conference. You’re not just sitting there, you’re up and moving and learning things you can learn in your classroom.”

EPIC stands for Empowered, Preparatory, Independent, and Christian – all core ideals this passionate educating husband and wife live and breathe each day.

They share that one of the biggest tools that came from the conference was the Empowered Bucks (incentive currency), which they have renamed EPIC Bucks in their school.

“It was the most profound thing I have seen in my life,” said Kenneth.

Kenneth and Traciellya certainly harness the power of incentives in the learning activities in their new academy. In a normal system, with merit and demerits, the negative has as much power as the positive. But with Empowered, the positive is incentivized, and the negative becomes obsolete.

Students are lighting up like Christmas trees – they are learning in a way where, suddenly, they are making the decision to do the right thing instead of being told to do the right thing.

Simple moments, as the school day begins, illustrate this concept beautifully at EPIC Academy. On a recent rainy morning, the hallway was wet as students entered. One student, unprompted, grabbed a mop and started cleaning the floor to ensure the safety of others.

“He was creating his own environment,” said Kenneth.

Traciellya explained their system of positivity saying, “We don’t have rules, we just have expectations.” And the students and parents are learning and responding.

Kenneth shared that parents are telling them that, “These EPIC bucks are all kids are talking about when they get home.”

With one auction day under their belt and a Fall Fest Market Day around the corner, excitement is palpable in Mississippi. EPIC students, at a late-September 2022 event, were able to sell a product and keep their earnings. The will also have a chance to create a real business with an LLC.

“They are super-duper excited about that,” said Kenneth.

“In a normal classroom, students are not prepared to be productive citizens,” said Traciyella. “They don’t budget. They spend more than they bring in. Empowered helps them see that they must avoid a surplus of bills with a certain amount of income.”

Kenneth agrees. “We’re teaching them to be future leaders. In fact, we call our students ‘future leaders’ while in the classroom.”

As for the future of EPIC Academy’s Empowered classrooms, this couple has big and achievable goals.

“I want the kids to embrace the Win-Win Focus,” said Kenneth. “I want them to continue to look at creative ways to put themselves in a Win-Win situation every time.”

Both Kenneth and Traciellya believe the Empowered curriculum, printed materials, and online resources inspire them and help them be their best.

“It makes me a better and more productive educator,” said Kenneth. “It gives me a keen sense of a vision for positivity. We make a big deal out of everything that is positive.”

Kenneth continues, “I’m an advocate of keeping the light bulb lit and throwing away the lamp shade because Empowered students result in transformative leaders.”