It’s not easy to make your way in life. Finding inspiration, discovering yourself and charting a unique course takes courage.
A lot of parents know that, and they want their kids to have an easier time on the road to self-discovery than they did.
If you have a teenager, he may be addicted to a screen, not good at listening and a quart low on ambition. Or maybe your teenager is an overachiever with good grades, but you’re worried that she doesn’t know how to be happy.
Either way, YouSchool might be right for you.
This San Diego-based company offers what it calls “life coaching for emerging adults” to help participants search their souls and answer three big questions: What’s my purpose? Where do I belong? What great story could I tell with my life?
The president, and “chief guide,” is 36-year-old Scott Schimmel. The married father of three has a passion for helping young people discover who they really are, and why they’re here. It’s the kind of self-awareness that might be learned over a lifetime.
YouSchool gives young people a head start on the journey.
After working with college students for several years through a nonprofit and studying the behavior and priorities of thousands of young people, Schimmel found that – in the vast majority of cases – students were unhappy, bored or lonely. Other times, they just felt out of place. He spent 12 months studying other self-help youth programs before sitting down with three collaborators to develop his own.
What was already out there didn’t seem to have a meaningful and lasting impact on adolescents.
“There’s too much focus on what we want to do, or what we feel we have to do,” Schimmel told me. “And not enough attention given to who we are. Beyond testing, self-help courses, and motivational speaking, there needed to be something sustainable. I knew young people were ready to have the deep questions put to them, with a little guidance to help them find the answers.”
The operating principle of YouSchool is that everyone has a story worth hearing. When it’s time to extract it, Schimmel thinks he knows what works – and what doesn’t.
“You can’t lecture it, or scare it out of them,” he said. “You have to help them discover it and touch it. You need to help them see who they want to become, and guide them there.”
Once enrolled, students get individual coaching, with one meeting every other week for 12 weeks, and three or four advisers to help them understand their goals and purpose.
Some people might think that the hardest kids to reach are those who come from nothing. But actually, the real challenge is getting through to those who have everything.
“The over-scheduled, over-programmed, over-controlled, those are the hardest to reach,” he said. “Because they’re not used to thinking for themselves.”
Enrollees are usually between 13 and 15 years old, a life stage where, as Schimmel puts it, young people start to “see themselves.”
But there may also be a market for much older students. Schimmel spends about half his time working with young people, and the other half speaking to groups – including groups of adults as varied as corporate executives and Navy SEALs.
There are also those parents who love the concept so much they want their own version. They tell the guides that they still need help, that something like this would be great for them, and that they never had a road map for how to find happiness.
Clients fall into three groups, according to Schimmel. Half are onboard and ready to learn about themselves. A quarter are skeptical and need to be convinced. And a quarter are resistant, hostile and flat-out opposed to his message.
Believability is a key component.
“When we’re in front of young people, we live and die off authenticity,” he said. “Once you open up, it’s like they’re thinking, ‘OK, you have authority now, because you’re real.’ ”
I was curious about how often Schimmel encounters something I see now and then in young people: an aura of entitlement.
“Every day, all day,” he said. “It’s the sense that many young people have that things will come easily.”
As you know, that’s not going to happen. Anything worth having takes hard work and sacrifice. And a little introspection doesn’t hurt either.
Contact Ruben Navarrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.