Welcome NEIA's
Digital Publication!

A note before you dive in: As you scroll through this publication you'll notice the page moving horizontally and/or vertically at times. This is the intended experience. No adjustments to your normal, vertical scrolling techniques (up and down) are required!

The Bike Trail Challenge

January 10, 2021
By Vicki Grisanti
Photos Rob Bossi

“All in all, it was a good learning experience and a chance to bond with the maintenance team while creating a trail system that we knew students would enjoy for years to come.”

Read the Article

As the NEIA campus takes shape, the staff and students saw an opportunity to explore the surrounding woodlands to create a unique bike trail on the property. The undertaking was a bit more of a challenge than the team originally anticipated with hilly terrain, rocky and overgrown in many places.

“No one on the maintenance team had ever been involved in cutting a trail before. I reached out to some local landscaping companies, and none of them were familiar with this type of work either. ” – Dana MacKenzie, Facilities Manager

“No one on the maintenance team had ever been involved in cutting a trail before. I reached out to some local landscaping companies, and none of them were familiar with this type of work either,” said Dana MacKenzie, Facilities Manager. “We decided to do it ourselves and used a town easement on the edge of the school property that has the appearance of a roughly cut road.”

Once the team cut it back some they could tell they were off to a good start. The team used chainsaws and other cutting equipment to get through the growth. It was a challenging task but the promise was there and the trail quickly came to life.

“All in all, it was a good learning experience and a chance to bond with the maintenance team while creating a trail system that we knew students would enjoy for years to come,” added Dana.

The Language of Innovation

January 20, 2021
By Vicki Grisanti
Photos Rob Bossi

​“Language is a living, kicking, growing, flitting, evolving reality, and the teacher should spontaneously reflect its vibrant and protean qualities.” — John A Rassias

Read the Article

Learning a new language opens up new opportunities and expands our understanding of other cultures, inviting us to explore different parts of the world and build empathy for those around us. 

At NEIA, our focus on creating a space of belonging and inclusion meant that language would be a natural part of our program offerings. As a new school, we sought a partner who shared our vision for language acquisition and making cultural connections across the curriculum.

Kevin Ramos-Glew, Head of Enrollment at NEIA, taught English and Spanish in graduate school and hosted the Rassias Center’s ESL summer language program for three years. Kevin saw the impact of the Rassias MethodⓇ  early in his career and recognized the unique opportunity it presented to engage students and adults and speed up the learning process. 

“The Rassias Center at Dartmouth College is not only the most effective way to teach languages, but it is also the most scalable way given we can teach students, adults, and even young children,” said Kevin Ramos-Glew, Head of Enrollment at NEIA. “We’re excited to offer such a dynamic language program to our students, and in the future could expand our offerings to prepare adults for international business or personal travel, or offer ESL programs to help the larger NEIA community. The possibilities are endless.”


President Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to allow Americans to serve their country and the world through acts of service. The challenge volunteers faced early on was learning language skills quickly and effectively to operate in host countries. At Dartmouth, John Rassias was called on to teach French to those going to work in French-speaking West Africa. Word of his talent for teaching through quick, efficient lessons that offered an environment where people were less inhibited and free to speak up quickly spread.

It had to be fast, it had to be dramatic because they had a short amount of time to prepare..

“It had to be fast; it had to be dramatic because they had a short amount of time to prepare,” said Helene Rassias-Miles, Executive Director of the Rassias Center at Dartmouth College. “How can we do something that also creates the sensation of being in a place and opens you up to speak freely and without hesitation? With the Rassias Method of class and drills, we create an environment where people aren’t afraid to speak up given the pace and excitement of the lessons.”

Adding a new language creates global connectedness while building empathy. As Peace Corps volunteers from Dartmouth and elsewhere honed their skills, they also became adept at understanding the nuance of language, which equipped them to better acclimate to their new environment. The Rassias Method was revolutionary for its time and went on to be a key element in supporting the needs of Dartmouth students, community members including children and adults, and visitors to Hanover from around the world, such as executives, government employees, medical residents, educators, and travelers.  

“The Rassias Method is emblematic of our teaching style, given we look to remove barriers, make mistakes, and iterate,” said Kevin. “Fail forward is part of the Rassias Method. Don’t wait, don’t pause. Instead, live in the moment and iterate to improve.”


Today, the Rassias Center offers a suite of programs designed to provide a wide range of individuals with language skills, and the results are remarkable. 

“There have been so many collaborations at the Rassias Center, and one of the most recent was to prepare public school teachers in Mexico to teach English,” said Jim Citron, Language and Culture Specialist at the Rassias Center who leads the Rassias-NEIA collaboration. 

“The key takeaways from the program we offered in Mexico were the gains made by the students who were learning through the Rassias Method compared to their peer group,” added Jim. “A randomized control trial conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank showed that in 30 weeks, the students who were taught by Rassias-trained teachers made ten additional weeks of progress in proficiency gains compared to a control group. We are excited to bring this teaching approach to NEIA to replicate the success we’ve seen elsewhere.”

By collaborating with different organizations, the Rassias Center is well-positioned to engage all individuals in the excitement and independence that comes with speaking a new language. In bringing the program to NEIA, the team can expand language offerings, plan for cultural exchanges, and engage the community. In the future, the Rassias Center will seek collaborations within the healthcare sector, adult education programs, study abroad initiatives, and much more.


At NEIA, the Rassias Method aligns with the overall curriculum, focusing on the student and inviting them to express their own needs. The five-point philosophy breaks through to communicate language and culture heart-to-heart with Know Thyself, Connect, Special Delivery, Students as Star of the Show, and Sense and Emotions. The philosophy is directly aligned with NEIA’s mission to work with students to help them find their passion, bring their ideas to impact, and prepare for what’s next with empathy and understanding for those around them. 

We immediately recognized the alignment between our own program and the mission at NEIA. Together, we empower students and invite them to bring themselves to the practice.

“If you look at our philosophy it is centered on how students embrace the material,” said Helene. “We immediately recognized the alignment between our own program and the mission at NEIA. Together, we empower students and invite them to bring themselves to the practice.”

By immersing students in the language and culture, Rassias teachers are able to connect the material to real-world application. Innovators at NEIA are quick to engage in conversations in different languages, share and celebrate customs, and begin to express themselves spontaneously in class and around campus. 

“The technique ensures that you never have language without the culture,” said Helene. “If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is the global interconnectedness of our world. Understanding culture ensures that you understand nuance and are prepared to participate in all aspects of society.”

What is Innovation Studio?

December 15, 2021
By Vicki Grisanti
Photos Rob Bossi

At NEIA, we believe that in order for a student to flourish, they need to feel a sense of belonging, confidence, and self-love – the whole person needs to be healthy.

Read the Article

At NEIA, we believe that in order for a student to flourish, they need to feel a sense of belonging, confidence, and self-love – the whole person needs to be healthy. As healthy individuals, our students are able to nurture their creativity. They develop into innovative thinkers who approach complex problems with empathy through human-centered design. This experience unfolds, in part, through students’ time in our Innovation Studio.

NEIA’s Innovation Studio is a cornerstone of our curriculum and the design of our school, central to our fundamental value proposition. The concept of the Innovation Studio is borrowed directly from the MIT Integrated Design & Management program.

How the Innovation Studio Fits In

It’s important to recognize that innovation can’t happen solely in a lab. The Innovation Studio at NEIA is both a construct and a concept to teach human-centered design. Our teachers are working closely together to align content and create interdisciplinary learning. Students are educated across a broad range of content areas and, whenever possible, these traditional subjects such as math, science, humanities, art, and wellbeing come together in Innovation Studio.

The best way to paint a picture is through an example. Imagine students are learning how to calculate the trajectory of a payload in math. In humanities, maybe they’re learning about the politics of 400 BC in Sicily. And in science, perhaps there’s a study of wood – different types of trees and their molecular structures, for example. Seemingly disparate, these topics come together in the Innovation Studio.

There, students might be asked to build a catapult. They might explore a museum or interview a person knowledgeable about the subjects at hand. They’d use their math knowledge about calculating trajectories, and their scientific knowledge about different types of woods to develop the most effective version of a catapult. They build empathy for those living in this time period to understand what necessitated creating a catapult and put themselves in the scene through roleplay.

Suddenly, students understand not only the value of how any one concept works in the real world, but how they work together, and they most likely will never forget it.

Entrepreneurial Thinking

Our approach using human-centered design is just one of the meaningful ways the Innovation Studio impacts a student’s experience at NEIA. The complex problems our students seek to solve in Innovation Studio could result in demonstrating their understanding of a concept, like the catapult example, but their work could just as easily result in a product or a process.

Part of becoming an innovator at NEIA is learning to create things of value that are accessible to others. While the act of prototyping and designing happens in the studio, the real opportunity lies in scaling the impact of the innovation and sharing it with the outside world. Entrepreneurship comes in to take a product, solution or service and get it out to millions of people.

As students continue their path at NEIA, we envision opportunities with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and other partnerships to learn how to scale an innovation by understanding marketing, presentation skills, and mass production techniques, injection modeling, supply chain, fulfillment centers, logistics and shipping.

We envision an experience where students could run a business within the school. Students at NEIA might get summer jobs and internships with businesses, but they might also make their own job for the summer. To make a living as an innovator we must teach entrepreneurship as well. This is the culture and type of thinking we seek to promote as the Innovation Studio evolves.

The Heart of Campus

As a physical space, the Innovation Studio serves as the heart of the NEIA campus. The teachers understand the practice and employ it in their day-to-day work with each other and with their students. In addition, the space itself is comprised of three components:

  • Studio Space: In keeping with what you might see in a design or architecture studio, this area features flat desks with tables and chairs where students can collaborate on teams, think, discuss and assemble. This open and airy space is intended for ideation and offers a location to evaluate work and make adjustments.
  • The Hive: A state-of-the-art makerspace that features all the tools a designer could imagine using to bring their idea to life. Specifically, the Hive offers assorted 3D printers, a laser cutter, vinyl cutters, and every machine tool you can imagine such as band saws and drill presses, and materials to make circuit boards. It’s a very high-tech version of a traditional makerspace. This is where students go to build, experiment, and create.
  • Design Review Area: This is where students pin up their concepts or give presentations about the work they are doing. A critical element of being a persuasive innovator is to learn how to take feedback and give it in a way that produces positive results – both emotionally and in terms of the work.

Why an Innovation Studio?

When we began designing NEIA over a year ago, we used human-centered design to understand user needs. That told us what students wanted from a good school – and what they didn’t like about their current experience (no fun, too much homework, too much time learning about things that don’t matter).

We discovered that those students who are trying to invent, create and make are entrepreneurial in the way they think and quite self-directed. The experiential element that the Innovation Studio brings makes it fun – it provides them an opportunity to put things into practice every day. It also helps develop a deeper synaptic response to the new material, providing very profound learning without students even realizing it’s happening.

What’s more, human-centered design invites students to embrace their ability to be compassionate, loving human beings. The work in the Innovation Studio supports this growth throughout a student’s journey at NEIA. In the Innovation Studio, we are able to adapt our curriculum to the needs of the students, versus forcing students to adapt to what we want to teach. Undergoing the process of human-centered design not only makes learning more meaningful but also more sustainable and compassionate – it’s a mechanism for developing empathy.

down to earth at kroka

November 22, 2021
By Vicki Grisanti
Photos Rob Bossi

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” — Coretta Scott King

Read the Article

Innovators, as we refer to students at NEIA, would arrive on campus with the promise of what their school experience would be and a shared sense of purpose. The early days would likely set the tone for the weeks and months ahead. Creating a sense of belonging became our primary focus as we prepared to open a new school.

How Might We Ensure Innovators Belong at School

Belonging comes with community. As we set about building our community at NEIA, we know students want to feel heard, understood, respected, and loved.

“By understanding the needs and emotions of other people, we automatically break down barriers,” said Matt Kressy, Trustee and Head of Innovation at NEIA.

Enabling our teachers and staff to get to know our innovators and get to know each other became the goal of the orientation program, The Ascent, that we designed for September. Setting aside time at the start of the year and providing space to listen and understand each other would be critical to building trust and shaping our community.

Digging in with Kroka Expeditions

Many schools look for creative ways to encourage students to get to know each other and let their guard down at the start of a new year. However, NEIA’s teachers and staff wanted something truly memorable and meaningful as part of orientation. As we explored different options, Kroka Expeditions quickly rose to the top of the list given the location of their farm and focus on building a relationship with the land. The only question left was could Kroka host a group of 75 Innovators across grade levels over 48 hours?

Amahle and Yaya, grade 6 innovators, gather under the tent and forge a fast friendship at Kroka.

“As as it happened, we all agreed that NEIA’s request presented an exciting challenge,” said Ezra Klein, “It was such a huge event for us to host, and we knew having such a large group would be fun.”

Kroka would scale a traditional three to four-day experience into 24 hours to accommodate the shortened timeline of NEIA’s visit. Ezra explained that the Kroka team focused on three key takeaways they wanted NEIA Innovators to experience from the curriculum, namely:

Innovators would come into the farm or wilderness and work together to become comfortable living outdoors and in primitive dwellings. They would get water from the well and cook over an open fire.
Lead six different activities that groups would rotate through and ensure that each student would participate in at least three of the activities. Then, as a whole community, everyone would have a chance to see and learn about everything.
Encouraging students to work together on morning chores and understand the meaning behind their work. The chores, whatever they were, would help prepare Kroka for the next group to visit the land.

“We can do altruistic work in nature. For example, students who split firewood and stacked it might not be using it but would make it available to a future group, just as NEIA is using wood from a previous group,” said Ezra. “The work is something that we do for someone known or unknown in the future.”

Innovators explored Kroka village, 120 acres of forests, fields, and streams. Activities ranged from learning to read maps, topography, and a compass to rock climbing and canoeing. They also completed various chores, from splitting and stacking firewood to harvesting food from the gardens, hauling water, and cooking meals.

Cultivating Community

As innovators arrived at Kroka, they were encouraged to kick off their shoes and socks and let their feet sink into the earth. The previous day’s rain left the ground wet and soggy, but innovators and staff alike quickly complied and stood to mark the moment in a large circle. As innovators broke off into groups, there was a sense of excited anticipation for what the next few hours would entail. Gathering for a quick lunch of bagels and cream cheese with freshly picked carrots from the garden, groups of students got to know one another and their Kroka guides before digging into the activities.

Activities would alternate with food preparation for the evening meal, and each group would bring a special offering to share at dinner.

“Being in nature ensured that the experience was new to everyone and acted as a reset for all.”

We were impressed from the beginning to how open the students were to the experience and jumped right in to challenge themselves with the activities,” said Erza. “Being in nature ensured that the experience was new to everyone and acted as a reset for all.”

The small groups proved a success as Innovators came together and created a whole community. In this way, they were able to work together on small teams to do their activities which facilitated friendships and bonding. In addition, students were less self-conscious by working together and treating each experience as a small team activity where everyone is new. As a result, they could enjoy the moment as they worked toward a greater goal.

For the meals, much of the food that is eaten on the farm is also sourced there. Innovators cooked lots of vegetables and had a lot of unfamiliar foods. Each group would share their offering at dinner, and it was clear that there were many different types of foods to try. Since they all had a hand in making the meal, there was a genuine willingness to try lots of new foods, and by the end, not much was left.

“It was quite a transformation from the morning gathering to our evening meal,” said Ezra. It was evident that students were feeling a sense of pride as they brought their food to the table.”

Kroka Students prepare a fire and cut vegetables to contribute fresh salsa and potato salad for the evening meal.

Down to Earth

At the very end, there was a closing circle, and with the rain tapering off, Innovators were able to take a few moments to share one word that summarized their experience. The word that kept coming up repeatedly was community.

“Feeling like part of a whole community at dinner and then again around the bonfire, it reminds us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” said Ezra.

Although hosting large groups was a new experience for Kroka, it was a success, and now the team is thinking about more ways to reach schools. An overnight coupled with meaningful activities and chores can significantly impact students and build community as it did for NEIA innovators, teachers, and staff.

Belonging at NEIA

December 15, 2021
By Matt Kressy & NEIA Board

"I think NEIA is a very special place. NEIA is brand new like a little sprout emerging from the soil. It’s fresh, idealist, pure and delicate. I’ve been to a lot of special places, this is one of them." — Matt Kressy

Read the Article

I think NEIA is a very special place. NEIA is brand new like a little sprout emerging from the soil. It’s fresh, idealist, pure and delicate. I’ve been to a lot of special places, this is one of them.
And here’s why we’ve worked very hard to make this special place:

Independent Thinking

I grew up on a mountain in NH. The forest was my playground. Every day I would wake up and sit on my front lawn or in my favorite tree and think about what should I do that day. I’d see the barn, our pastures, the two sheds, the mountains beyond with the lakes and rivers nestled in their valleys. I would design my day, and I did this every day. I was a poor student because of this. School just didn’t interest me, so it was not part of my design. I suffered through it creating my own lessons as soon as I was set free for the day. This is one of my motivations for creating NEIA. A place for independent thinkers and self-learners.

Inclusion, Acceptance, and Love

As beautiful as NH was, I was in a school system that did not appreciate artistic folks like me. I was humiliated and bullied on many occasions by classmates and even teachers. It was terrible. However, I consider this experience to be one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. It gave me tremendous empathy for everyone and anything. It caused me to always see the good in others, especially those who have been persecuted in some way. At NEIA, we worked hard to create not only a safe place, but a place that celebrates and appreciates being different (and normal too, whatever that means). We strive to build the most diverse community possible in every metric, from ethnicity to religion to gender to discipline. The only requirement is that everyone respect and appreciate each other and don’t ever rush to judge.

Professional Autonomy

I have never really had a job. My first real job was starting IDM at MIT (innovation leadership program) 7 years ago at the age of 48. I didn’t need the job because I have always been able to monetize my creations (aka entrepreneurship). As I got deeper into my job at MIT, I came to appreciate how autonomous I am, the power I have in the fact that I don’t need a job. I can make money whenever I want, doing whatever excites me. I am beholden to no one. NEIA is here to give our students this ability. The ability to go out into the world with the confidence that they can be successful any way they choose to be. That they are in control of their life. That they can design their day, every day.

Innovation + Entrepreneurship

Our vision is to create and enable people who are empowered with the ability to create beautiful things (we call this innovation) and monetize them (we call this entrepreneurship). These words are kind of trendy and come across as materialistic and pro-consumerism (one of our biggest environmental problems). But if done right, they are quite meaningful because if we can get paid to make beauty, we can keep doing it. And so then can others, and if everyone is creating beauty, we might have a beautiful world.

So what do I mean by beauty? I’m talking about the experience we create for each other. When I hold the door for someone, I have provided an experience for someone else, and I would argue that is a beautiful thing to do. When we cook a delicious meal for others like Mike and his team do every day for our students and did for us tonight, he has created a beautiful experience for us. When we design an elegant product, as Apple or Tesla does, a beautiful experience is had by millions of people.

When we talk about Innovation at NEIA, this is what we are talking about. Innovating with love. To stay on track, we use a process called Human-Centered Design, which is simply having the courtesy to ask people what they want before we make things for them. It means understanding their needs, emotions, dreams. It means connecting authentically with others before we take action or form an opinion. For me, HCD is the antidote to prejudice and fear, and NEIA is the prototype.

Getting back to beauty…to me the word beauty is interchangeable with the word love. Innovating or creating beauty using HCD is actually creating love. More than ever, the world needs love. It needs people who ask others what they need and make it. NEIA is here to help make those people.

NEIA is a unique and miraculous adventure. I am so grateful that you all have some sense of that, and may even appreciate what we’re doing. Thank you.

— Matt Kressy, Head of Innovation & Trustee

Enrollment Team

Maggie, Kevin, and Brynn share a passion for education that’s unsurpassed! Their genuine interest in making connections with everyone they meet is what sets the team apart and enables them to create meaningful experiences for prospective students to explore NEIA. Kevin brings a wealth of experience from independent school settings and is dedicated to finding the right fit for each and every student with the goal of seeing them thrive. Maggie draws on her own background as an educator and understands the parent’s perspective to help students develop academically and socially. Brynn’s ready to lend a helping hand to ensure the application process is smooth and worry-free.


Vishnu Bharath

Grade 6

Q What have you worked on at NEIA that you are most proud of at NEIA?

Something that I’ve learned about and am proud of is my progress with Mandarin. It’s been an enjoyable class, not to mention extremely interesting as well!

Q In what ways do you feel belonging at NEIA?

NEIA is a great school, where all students and teachers are very friendly. I have a great friend group, and we have a lot of fun together. All in all, the community at NEIA is very inclusive!

Q What has been your favorite meal that Chef Mike has prepared at NEIA, and why?

Definitely Taco Bar. (Anyone who disagrees with me is wrong. Completely. Unarguably.) It’s my favorite just because I love tacos. Tacos are great. My favorite song is the taco song. And you know, it tastes good.

Q What is something new that you’ve tried at NEIA?

Something new that I’ve tried is, well, Mandarin. Out of all my classes, it’s the most original by far. It’s interesting, fun, and has a great novelty to it. Tang, the teacher, is really nice, and always plans an excellent class for us!


Kayla + Ileana

A conversation with 2 students.

By Samantha Karl


Q What have you worked on at NEIA that you are most proud of at NEIA?

I’m really proud of how I organized Spirit Week. It was really fun and a big success. Being able to plan something with my peers was special to me because I’ve never been at a school where you can have a voice, without having to be a part of a certain group.

Q In what ways do you feel belonging at NEIA?

I feel belonging because at NEIA, I know all of us can be exactly who we want to be. We all share with each other, even the teachers, if we are having a bad day or a really great day. It’s rare to harbor a community of openness like that. We’ve gotten through so much together already.

Q What has been your favorite meal that Chef Mike has prepared at NEIA, and why?

Make your own tacos, for sure. It reminded me of a meal from home.

Q What is something new that you’ve tried at NEIA?

At NEIA, I learned how to play tennis, and now it is honestly my favorite sport. I am so excited to learn more about it and keep playing.


Q What have you worked on at NEIA that you are most proud of at NEIA?

Starting the Student House Leader program in East House. At my old school, I never really went up to teachers and staff because I didn’t feel comfortable, but I was able to go to the East House Staff and talk with them about changes we wanted to see, and it happened!

Q In what ways do you feel belonging at NEIA?

I feel belonging because there is no social hierarchy, nothing is a contest, and we are all just here together as a community. We’re encouraged to be a part of anything we want without fear of judgement. We naturally empower each other.

Q What has been your favorite meal that Chef Mike has prepared at NEIA, and why?

Definitely make your own tacos. The blondies we had for dessert that day were also awesome!

Q What is something new that you’ve tried at NEIA?

I’ve never had the chance to lead a club, but here, I can — The Media Club. At NEIA, I love how it doesn’t matter who the oldest or most experienced is. We all have a chance to lead something and make it our own. For me, as a leader and a member of Upper School, I even have the chance to be a positive influence, and I am very grateful for that.

Tell Your Story

Do you have a favorite product or brand? What do like about it? What drew you to it in the first place?

By John Turner

Innovators explored this topic in art. Among their favorite brands they were asked to quickly sketch all of the logos they could remember. The class had a brief discussion about what makes a logo great and identified the following: memorable, distinctive, simple, and tells a story.

For the next three weeks, Innovators would develop a logo that would represent their personal brand identity. They would sketch, seek feedback, and refine their work. As they moved to digitize their sketches they learned a few fundamentals using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. For the final class, each student would share their finished logo and poster presentation. The results were outstanding and everyone discovered a new appreciation for art by applying it to real life. Creating logos to represent a personal brand provides a unique way to tell your story!

Find Your Voice

By John Camp

Innovators focused their Humanities studies on voice! Following the study of the U.S. Constitution, the 7/8 grade cohort had their say in the topics chosen for the larger debate. After a class vote, their work will focus on students’ rights, particularly regarding privacy. The Upper School innovators in grade 9 learned and studied Nipmuc and Indigenous peoples’ material. They witnessed the power of sharing stories by watching a video presentation of Larry Spotted Crow Mann, an internationally acclaimed Nimpuc author and founder/Co-Director of the Ohketeau Cultural Center in Massachusetts, divulging history, traditions, and personal experiences. In relation to the “I Connect…” competency, the Innovators utilized their notes from the video to connect to previous learning by writing an assessed “Bite”: 200-250 characters that receive individual, targeted feedback to hone their written voices. After the break, Innovators did a reflection and sharing exercise on their learning from the first 10 weeks of Humanities at NEIA.