Ch. 30: Living Wisdom Graduates Enjoy Varied and Exciting Careers


David Kretzmann
Motley Fool Investment Analyst

I attended the original Living Wisdom School from kindergarten through eighth grade, and I graduated from Living Wisdom High School in 2010. I entered Berea College in Kentucky, where I 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, a private financial and investing advice company based in Alexandria, Virginia with over 300 employees worldwide, which is where I am today, helping individual investors and evaluating companies and recommending stocks.

When I reflect on my time in the Living Wisdom Schools, I see it as an experience where I learned how to live a good, successful and happy 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 your life — how to be happy in what you do, make friends with what you do, and be 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 and Dance Instructor

Mirabai graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz with a BA degree in Astronomy. She now has a thriving business as a tango teacher and performer in the San Francisco area and in Buenos Aires, Argentina.





Shyama Helin
Project Manager, ID Branding

I work with an award-winning advertising and branding firm. I’m married and we own a home in the north end of Portland, Oregon. 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 at Living Wisdom School. The small classes and close relationships with teachers and fellow students helped me build strong bonds and gave me the tools to know how to work cooperatively with others.

As a team leader on high-stress projects in my work environment, I consistently rely on the 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,
American Alpine Institute, National Outdoor Leadership School,
and 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 in an even bigger way in college at Seattle University, where I progressed from a rock climber to a raft guide and 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 the real treat is exploring, experiencing, and sharing the process of personal growth as a facilitator and educator.

Organized classes can convey a certain amount of information, but direct experience, where you’re 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.

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. The leaders at Living Wisdom School were the ones who inspired me to know the impact we can truly 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. I entered in fourth grade and attended LWS through eighth grade. 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: 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 Living Wisdom School?

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

Susan: Did you notice any differences between yourself and the 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 than most people.



Gita Matlock
Leadership Coach (

Gita attended Education for Life schools from pre-school to eighth 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 see as the advantages of Living Wisdom School?

Gita: I learned life skills and tools to succeed both in 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 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 our high schools.

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 with the others: a strong sense of self and an interest in giving back to the world.


Simon Hermann
Financial Institution Specialist at the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

Simon graduated Summa Cum Laude from California State University at Chico with a double major in Business and Economics. He now works as a Bank Examiner for the FDIC.

Simon travels around northern California, working with teams that analyze banking institutions’ capital, assets, management, earnings, liquidity, and sensitivity to market risk.

It’s a job that requires considerable flexibility, since he constantly needs to change roles and responsibilities from bank to bank, weekly or monthly, depending on the current assignment.

Simon says 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.”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.