The Story of North Star

In October 1995, Ken Danford and Joshua Hornick were not happy with their their teaching jobs. They loved teenagers, and they loved teaching. They were well-liked and well-respected, but something was wrong. Most kids were overjoyed for snow days and fire drills. Optional work was rarely tackled. Most kids were much more interested in their grades than their learning. Learning is one of the great joys of being alive, but most teenagers didn't seem to be particularly engaged. It was clear to Danford and Hornick that a large number of students (including A-students as well as F-students) were not having a meaningful educational experience. This didn't seem right.

Danford and Hornick explored ways to change this state of affairs inside their school, which was a well-respected institution, but it became clear to them that the changes that were needed to make learning a vital experience for many students were greater than the school could accommodate. So, they left.

Leaving public school was hard for Danford and Hornick because they were deeply committed to universal educational opportunity. They needed to create an alternative which would be universally accessible. Establishing a private school would be out of the question because tuition would make it too exclusive.

They had a brainstorm. It was a truly unique idea that would enhance the lives of many teenagers in a simple, inexpensive way. They set up their new center to provide a model which could improve the lives and learning of communities, families, and-of course-teenagers. Danford and Hornick opened Pathfinder Learning Center in August 1996. In 2002 the center changed its name to North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens.

Quick Facts

  • Middle school and/or high school are not necessary for college or any other aspect of a positive future.
  • North Star is not a school.
  • Most of our members are leaving unsatisfying school experiences.
  • North Star accepts all interested teenagers regardless of their ability to pay their fees. We work with each family to generate individual alternate contribution agreements.
  • North Star receives no state or federal funding, nor are we currently the recipients of any grant monies.
  • Most of our members choose to go on to college.
  • According to a recent survey, 95% of our alumni report having a good or overwhelmingly positive experience with North Star.
  • North Star works with each teen and his or her family to create an individualized academic plan that focuses on the teen's strengths and interests.

For more information about North Star, visit the website.