Why Aspen Academy Focuses on Leadership and Character Development

  • Academics
  • The Aspen Difference
Jennifer Gravlee

Aspen Academy focuses on leadership and character development for four main reasons that also encompass our core values: be kind, do good, work hard, and make the world better. In order to bring these values to life, we must first start with leadership and character development.

Who you are is more important than what you know. Focusing on who a child is -- at the core -- comes before teaching them the material. At the very least, a child must be able to  lead themselves: Knowing their own strengths, passions and interests, setting goals, having emotional recognition and self awareness. Helping a child discover who they are as a person and develop the necessary skills to work with others and impact the community is a priority for the Aspen Academy community.

We want our youth to be able to lead with others. Starting with close relationships at home,  parents, siblings, and family then transitioning into peers, teams and other adults, this is a crucial skill for life. It is important that children learn to negotiate, to collaborate and to make decisions with others. Teamwork and collaboration are skills that will be part of every child’s future career. Students must be equipped with the skills to communicate with others, listen, and handle conflict. These traits then apply to their ability to change the world.

We take service learning seriously at Aspen Academy. Each grade partners with an organization, sets goals, makes a plan and works together to execute it. Even a global pandemic can’t stop our leaders. Our students have been hard at work helping the homeless, collecting hygiene supplies for shelters and raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We believe in coming together to support others and fostering social responsibility.

Entrepreneurship holds great value at Aspen Academy. Not every student will become an entrepreneur, but it is our mission to see that they think like one and have the ability to lead like one. Students in Prek-K through 8th grade at Aspen Academy go through the process of starting a business. During this unit we focus on skills such as time management, grit, perseverance and “thinking outside of the box.” The knowledge and experience that is gained during this experience is one that will last a lifetime and impact the future.

These key reasons make an education at Aspen Academy uniquely different. When they culminate in 7th and 8th Grade with positions in Bears’ Student Enterprises and our Business Plan Competition, students often cite that they’ve learned skills and gained confidence for life.


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About the Author

Jennifer Gravlee, Aspen Youth Leadership Institute & Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute Coach

Jennifer was born and raised in Bartlett, Tennessee and graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in Elementary Education. She brings 7 years of teaching experience to Aspen and loves helping children grow and learn. She can best be described as energetic, outgoing, passionate and optimistic.



B.S., Elementary Education & Special Education, University of Memphis