Education Beyond the Ordinary - An Interview with Summer Collab Founder Catherine Lindroth | Jenn Wells Design

An electric thrill fills the gymnasium as the sounds of drumming begin and children’s excited giggles subside. Students performing on anything from drums to overturned buckets pound out a beat as their classmates dance, and the audience watches, proud and enraptured.

This is what a Tyler’s Camp graduation ceremony looks like.

Education Beyond the Ordinary

Summer Collab is a nonprofit who strives to prevent summer learning loss in low-income children. Tyler’s Camp is their program that takes the initiative a step further and provides actual, common-sense education to children in the summer months.

The way founder Catherine Lindroth describes it, “Tyler’s Camp is what all schools should be.” The camp focuses not just on traditional academics, but other life skills and experiences that enrich our lives. Tyler’s Camp teaches meditation and emotional management alongside technology, art, and dance. The school also keeps class sizes to 10 students per teacher, so every student can feel included and engaged.

“Education is Freedom”

On average, low-income children lose up to 3 months of learning during the summer, while high-income children gain up to 2. This disparity, repeated time after time, creates an even bigger stumbling block for these children.

“Your brain is the lever for everything.” When asked why education was important, Cat told us about her own experience of trying out for sports in high school. Her friends all tried out for JV, while Cat tried out for varsity. Cat says it just made sense, “JV is the default. You might as well try varsity and [if you don’t make it], then get JV.” Why not try?

But her friends hadn’t been given that mindset and missed out on a potential opportunity because their brains provided a false constraint. And that attitude, says Cat, is the real constraint. What we think and what we’re taught determines which opportunities we’ll go after and how much we’ll be able to achieve throughout our lives.

Issues in the Education Sector

Catherine is a visionary. She speaks with the passion of someone who sees the problem and the confidence of knowing there is a way to address it.

This ability to see past the obvious show Cat 2 main patterns in the obstacles educational nonprofits were facing:

  1. A lack of resources
  2. A belief that this problem was uniquely theirs

To counter this problem, Cat gathered these groups together to discuss their issues in one room. With a more collaborative approach, and with the groups working together, they were able to acquire funding to tackle larger issues.

This collaboration was so successful that it grew into Summer Collab.

“Missed Opportunity Bugs Me”

Cat also discussed her frustration with the lack of collaboration in the nonprofit world. “If someone has a need over here that could be solved by a resource over here, it bothers me that those 2 things can’t come together.”

Her own work is often focused at resolving those inefficiencies, and the tips Cat gave us for other nonprofits fell along the same lines.

  1. Collaborate! Find others within your space who have similar goals, get all of them together in one room, and have a facilitated conversation. Discuss constituents, needs, barriers, and figure out the best strategies to help everyone.
  2. Be honest about your goal. One nonprofit can change the lives of a (relatively) small group of constituents, but one group alone won’t change the entire world. In order to make those global changes, we need to band together and go after systemic change.
  3. Iterate. Be willing to throw away half your model if that’s what is needed. If you focus on what you’re doing wrong and how to improve instead of trying to justify why everything you do is right, your efforts will have a much greater impact.

Speaking with Cat Lindroth was an inspiring and enlightening experience. Cat is a true visionary, who sees the opportunities and is able to connect the people to follow up with those opportunities. Tyler’s Camp and Summer Collab are just the tip of the iceburg and I can’t wait to see what else grows out of her ability to innovate and collaborate.

Interested in interviewing? Submit your business or nonprofit here!