Courtney Kriz is the Campus Talent Acquisition Partner on the Firm Administration team at Blue. When she’s not meeting with prospective interns for Blue, you might catch her and her family holding class for Rise Academy of Lifelong Learning (Rise Academy), a new immersion school in So. Indiana for children on the autism spectrum and their neurotypical peers.
In this interview, learn what inspired Courtney and her family to create this immersion school in So. Indiana, learn how she has balanced it all, and the experiences she can draw upon from her career at Blue.
Blue & Co. (Blue):
Can you tell me a little bit about the business that you've started with your family and what inspired you to begin this process?
Courtney Kriz (Courtney):
Yeah, so the business that my family and I started is called Rise Academy and it's an immersion school for children that are on the autism spectrum and their neurotypical peers.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, neurotypical is defined as "showing patterns of thought and behavior that are typical of most people This term is often used as a way of describing people who are not on the autism spectrum.
Autism is a social disorder and what we see a lot of the times is that kids with autism are paired one-on-one with adults, which doesn't allow them to develop in a social environment. Our model allows the kids on the spectrum to actually learn in the classroom-setting with other children who are their neurotypical, developing peers.
It all started about two years ago, when my cousin suspected that my son, Carson, had autism because of her work at Oakstone Academy, an immersion school based in Westerville, Ohio. She connected us with their staff, and we took Carson to Columbus, Ohio where he was officially diagnosed. I moved to Columbus that summer and Carson attended a month-long summer program that Oakstone offered.
During that time, we saw a lot of great improvements from Carson, based off the immersion model curriculum.
After leaving the summer program, this business idea was something that my mom and I just couldn't stop talking about.
Finally one day, she just decided to take it upon herself to turn it into reality so that Carson and other local children in Southern Indiana would have access to these types of services.
|Courtney Kriz, family, and friends gather outside the new Rise Academy building for their ribbon cutting ceremony.
What were some of the key challenges you and your family faced while starting and running Rise Academy and how have you tried to overcome them?
It was challenging at first.
I'd say one of the big things though - since it was our main goal - was getting those neurotypical students enrolled.
Yes, it's a school for children with autism, but to make the model work you have to have those peers. So our team formed a committee and we had weekly meetings where we connected with those parents and community members who were interested in it.
What has been great is that every person that has come to our committee meetings has brought a new perspective or new idea or a new connection. I think because of that, the word of mouth has helped in a lot of ways
|Rise Academy hosts back-to-school hair fundraising event to help with basic expenses for the 2023-2024 school year.
How do you manage your time and prioritize tasks effectively to ensure both the smooth operation with the family business, but also in your role here at Blue?
Overall, I think just having a working checklist is important. I feel like I've always been an organized person, but I've had to step that up to the next level.
And then, of course, just optimizing my schedule. Anytime I have free time, or a grandparent has Carson, I take advantage of that time to check things off the list. I work after hours, and most weekends aren't actually weekends for me.
You received a grant for Rise Academy through the Blue Foundation. How did you get to use that funding and what are some of your future fundraising goals for Rise Academy?
We were just planning to start with a preschool class, and some people have given us some things to get started, but we still had to buy a lot of things to get started like tables and chairs, and that kind of stuff.
So I submitted an application to the Blue Foundation and we were approved! The grant definitely came in handy when we got enough applicants for our inaugural year to expand from one to two classrooms.
But one thing I know personally as a parent of a child with ASD is that the expenses don't stop... they just keep adding up. Insurance doesn't always cover therapies, or certain doctor's appointments, and obviously when you're trying to do what's best for your kid, you still kind of just do it.
So as we continue to grow and get more funding, one of the things we hope to offer in the future are scholarships for low-income families.
How is your role at Blue allowed you to thrive while running two businesses?
I work from home, which is very beneficial because not having that commute time helps me get some time back in my day that I maybe wouldn't have at another organization.
But I also just feel like the support at Blue has been huge. As we mentioned, I applied for the Blue Foundation grant, but also, I've got a very supportive team. They're always asking on team calls how things are going and sometimes I get ideas just through those discussions.
It's a good feeling to work for a company that wants what's best for their employees and will invest in them.
About Rise Academy
RISE Academy of Lifelong Learning aims to be the leading immersion school in Southern Indiana, providing students with the highest level of social and academic opportunities in a Christian, faith-based environment. It is their mission to prepare children on the autism spectrum and neurotypical peers for success in their lives, careers, and communities.
To donate, find us on Venmo under the Rise Foundation, LLC at @RiseFoundation2023 or mail a check Rise Foundation PO Box 961, New Albany, IN 47150. All donations are tax deductible.
About the Vision to Venture Series
At Blue, our team believes in embracing the spirit of innovation and forging our own path to success. It’s with this mentality that we serve our clients and communities, but also in the way we approach our own personal initiatives and interests.
In the Vision to Venture series, we will interview and highlight members across the firm who are passionately pursuing entrepreneurial projects in their professional and/or personal lives.
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