A Journey Into Imagine The Next
In the height of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, Janine James rented a carriage house on the eastside of Saratoga Springs, New York, from Eric and Kim Purdy. Eric and Kim spent a lot of their time with James, learning her philosophies and about her journey through her spiritual awakening. They became hopeful that James would be able to connect with their daughter, Katrina, who they convinced to join them for dinner.
“I’ve never seen Katrina connect with another adult like this ever, on this spiritual and intellectual level,” said Eric. “They were talking about astrology and levels of consciousness – things we didn’t even know our daughter looked into.”
When James made the decision that Saratoga Springs would be her new home, she took Katrina on for mentorship in mind-body-spirit work. For two years, James used a variety of approaches and holistic methods to help and support Katrina in finding her way back to a healthy mental and emotional well-being. James’ methods included meditations, changes in diet, and teachings in spiritual consciousness, allowing Katrina to open herself up to her own creativity.
Eric and Kim watched as Katrina grew more confident, inspired, happier, and more motivated. “She became more thoughtful, trying to be more compassionate and empathetic, and more interested in seeing others' points of views,” recalled Kim.
At the end of her junior year in high school, Katrina expressed a desire to fully immerse into her authentic self. Together, she and James worked to design a learning journey, including not only what Katrina would want to learn for her senior year, but also a way of learning that could motivate her.
Presenting this innovative learning journey to her parents, Katrina finally expressed an excitement to learn. Initially, the idea scared Eric and Kim, who worried their daughter would miss out on friendships and “normal” high school milestones, that James may not be able to accept such a large time commitment, or that Katrina would back out. But they also knew that there wasn’t another option. “Katrina was so desperately unhappy, and no one should have to live like that,” said Kim. Once James secured the local school board's approval, Katrina began her senior year of high school with Janine James at Imagine the Next Institute.
As the learning journey began, Katrina took seriously the Imagine the Next Institute philosophy of focusing first on becoming the change you want to see in the world. As the year continued, and Katrina truly felt that change, it led her to discover that she wanted to become a designer. She was ready to be a part of something bigger, a community of other creative and design thinkers who share her same mission of creating a new Earth that is people, planet, spirit-focused.
After years of rebuffing the mere idea of going to college, in her senior year at Imagine the Next Institute, Katrina applied to college at both Parsons School of Design and Savannah College of Art and Design. She was accepted into both – with scholarships.
Interview with Katrina & Janine
What did you think of Janine when you first met her?
K: I was initially really scared and intimidated by her. I'd come home from work, and she'd be on my front porch, and I'd kind of hide from her because I knew she could see me. One day, I finally had dinner with her, and she met me where I was, and things took off.
J: I shared with her that I had had a spiritual awakening, and I had a lot of questions about things that were opening up for me. The universe made sure she and I had this connection.
What was school like for you before Imagine the Next Institute [ITNI]?
K: It was just a place where you could go to waste time. I felt like I hadn't taken any valuable information that I could apply to my life, like I have at ITNI. I've learned more here at ITNI in one year, and this is the information that has shaped my life. Before, I'd hide from teachers, and they made it so easy to be reckless. I wasn't held accountable at school like I am here. Now, I have a mentor; I didn't have one at high school.
J: Katrina's high school art teacher told her she had no talent and wasn't going to be an artist; and an English teacher said she wasn't going anywhere. She was a wreck when she got here [ITNI].
Why didn't you want to go to college? What made you change your mind?
K: I did not want to go just to check off a box; I thought there was no reason to. I never considered going to college, never thought of it. I just wanted to move to New York City. Janine and I took a trip down there in the fall of my senior year, and I realized throwing myself into the city wasn't going to work without real-life experience. I was too naive for that;, any 18 year-old is.
I always thought of myself as a creative person, and I decided to apply to art and design school after that trip to build a bridge and further expose myself into the creative worlds.
J: She needed some skills and tools; she needed a four-year bubble to really experiment with coming into her own as an artist and a designer; to discover her unique way of expressing her creativity.
What was your favorite part of working with Imagine the Next Institute?
K: Janine has given me freedom. Everything I do here is so enriching. Every moment I spend here is valuable and teaches me in ways that are so subtle.
What do you think is the most important thing you've learned while working with Imagine the Next Institute?
K: How everything, whether we link it or not, interconnects in some way. Something personal in my life could be happening, and we could be learning about regenerative economics, and I'm able to connect those things. The whole basis of ITNI is interdisciplinary methods and connectedness. We are always looking for opportunities to be interdisciplinary.
J: She loved that. Katrina was able to uncover and discover that one of her talents is that her brain naturally works that way. She blossomed and could see herself at that higher level.
K: I think the toughest part, but also the blessing, is being willing to see the most vulnerable parts of myself, and diving into that shadow and being held accountable for these aspects. In order to grow, you have to face these dark things. Taking feedback can be really hard, but ultimately I know it's how I'm going to grow and transform the dark into light. Janine has taught me how to see my vulnerability as a power and live my truth with that.
Interview with Eric & Kim Purdy
Janine said her work with Katrina would not have been so successful without your trust and a big leap of faith from you as her parents. What was it that made you feel this way?
K: Mentoring with Janine was helping Katrina, but all we wanted was for her to be happy. She was so desperately unhappy at high school, and no one should have to live like that.
E: There was this immediate connection between Katrina and Janine; they were talking about things we didn't even know our daughter looked into. I've never seen her connect with another adult like this, maybe ever, on this intellectual level. We slowly came to realize that it wouldn't work if we became too involved.
What were some struggles you came across during this learning journey?
K: Number one was that Katrina wanted to be very private. There weren't any other parents we could talk to – just us. It's an experiment, and we were allowing that to happen with our child. But I feel great about it now!
E: Me too. We weren't there for all the moments. But that's what Katrina wanted.
What kind of change did you notice in Katrina once she and Janine started to work together?
K: Katrina was reading more and taking the initiative to learn about different ways of thinking.
E: She's become more confident, more inspired, happier, more motivated.
K: These last few months have been even better because she knows where she's going [to college] and what she's going to do. She's become very thoughtful and is trying to be more compassionate and empathetic.
What would you say to other parents who are thinking of having their child participate at Imagine the Next Institute?
K: I highly recommend it. I don't think there's a downside. You have to trust the process and know that there will be ebbs and flows, ups and downs. But it's all going in the right direction.
E: If your child isn't doing well and not fitting in at a more traditional school, it doesn't have to do with what you're doing wrong as a parent.
K: A lot of these kids need the confidence to know that they're a powerful part of this society.
E: It's a unique experience, and it’s not for every kid.
K: Only the fact that it's not a traditional education. You have to be open-minded.
E: There are a lot of us caught up in the current system; this isn't that. It's an alternate route to get to the next phase of life, whatever that may be. There's hope, and there are other options.
I understand Katrina did a lot of work behind the scenes to develop her authentic self. Based on what she learned, she and Janine worked on developing a curriculum that would work best for Katrina, including what's important to her. Can you tell me about her presentation to you?
E: We thought she was going to present to us that she wanted to take a gap year. Instead, she presented this plan to attend her senior year with Imagine the Next Institute. I thought, "Wow, that's something I wouldn't mind doing myself!"
K: Katrina was excited, and we were too because she's finally excited about learning. It was also scary; what if this plan wouldn't get approved by the school board? Will Janine be able to find additional teachers? Would it all work? Graduating was a must; it will give you options in life.
I understand Katrina decided to apply to college and surprised you with her acceptance. What did you think of that?
K: I cried; I was so excited.
E: She was on this great path with all this energy; we wanted her to continue with it furthering her education
How did you keep the trust even when it looked like progress wasn't being made?
E: We always landed on the fact that this was the best path.
K: She was always making an improvement; we could see a difference.
E: Janine is such a positive person; it kind of rubs off on you. It just seems like she has the right intention and the right path. It's just important that Katrina finds her inspiration and purpose.