ALISTAIR GRANT: Founder
HighGround Education represents my deepest vision for the college process, a vision born from my years on the college side and a decade at highly selective high schools in San Jose, Taipei, and Marin.
When I founded HighGround Education, I believed in the simple idea of putting people and relationships first. In fact, it strikes me that developing relationships is what the process demands; it's what it means to put the process first.
Very simply, I believe that philosophy gives rise to language and language gives rise to culture. If we know that every college-bound student will navigate the college process, the question then becomes, “How?” It is the ‘how’ that we want to focus on at HighGround Education.
WENDY BATTEY: Academic Coach
Partnering with Alistair and HighGround education has been an amazing privilege. Three years ago, when Alistair and I imagined what we wanted to create, we knew we wanted to create something different and something that didn’t exist. The language we kept coming back to was, positively disruptive. We wanted to do something very positive for kids that completely shook up everyone’s expectations. We wanted to meet the needs of teenagers as comprehensively as possible with a unique process that included college counseling, academic coaching, and mentoring. Our goal was simple; we wanted to help kids become the best version of themselves—and not just in the classroom.
As a parent of two teenagers and one child in her twenties, I have seen, firsthand, the profound effect adult mentoring has had on my own children. Nothing is more positively influential than a child being championed by an adult who is not his or her parent. The dynamic between parent and child can be tricky when navigating the teenage years, years when teenagers are separating from their parents in healthy ways and establishing their own identity as young adults. As parents we want to help but find that putting ourselves in that role for our kids can ruin the relationship, and often inhibits their development
With a background in team building, my work with kids started fairly organically ten years ago when I partnered with a teacher at a local middle school. I worked with eighth graders in groups outside the classroom experimenting with how peer influence can help kids achieve academic success. In the process, I became fascinated with the variety of different ways kids learn, how they take in and then articulate information. I was exposed to varying degrees of grit, self and social awareness, attention spans and organizational abilities. Most importantly, I was made aware of the need for these teenagers to be seen and celebrated as individuals.
What I have learned in the process is this work is multilayered, and for high school students it extends well beyond the classroom. Every teenager wants to be known, really known. They want to feel their value and understand the ways in which they can contribute to their community. The truth is, many don’t know how or even where to begin. What they struggle with most is how to break it down. For them, it feels like being at the bottom of Everest looking up with no GPS. At the crux is the fact that they have romanticized the high school experience only to be disappointed that it doesn’t live up to the ideal they expect. I work with my students to break the process down into manageable steps. I engage them to act on creating the high school experience they want. I offer support academically, providing strategies to overcome areas of weakness, most specifically with respect to executive function deficiencies. I also work with students to explore their passions outside the classroom. I help them unlock interests, and to become curious and courageous. My hope is to get them out of the bleacher seats and into the arena where life begins.
The HighGround philosophy is process-driven and experiential. We like to focus not on just what teenagers do and accomplish but who they are as individuals. This distinction is what separates us from other consulting firms and affords us the luxury of being positively disruptive.
JOHN HANLON: Literature & Composition Specialist
Throughout the decade that Alistair and I have known one another, our common concern has been making the high school experience more grounded, more humane, and more joyful. After years of acting on that concern within schools, we both decided that we can serve our students best by helping them directly. HighGround Education gives us the opportunity to do just that.
At HighGround, I draw upon my seventeen years of experience as an English teacher and my broad background in the humanities to help students improve their critical reading and writing skills. Through regular, one-on-one encounters with someone who is a professional writer and an enthusiastic reader of great literature, students find both their analytical prowess and their expressive ability increasing naturally.
While I especially enjoy helping students with their English classes, I am well versed in writing across the disciplines. An essay for a history course, an introduction to a lab report, a research paper for an arts elective – all of these forms of composition can be improved with thoughtful attention and strong editing. By the time students are asked to write their college application essays, they have the confidence to draft compelling narratives about their lives and articulate their ideas about what the future may hold in store.
My personal mission as an educator has always been to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities they will face in college. I visit university campuses regularly to make sure that my knowledge of what professors expect is up to date. And, as a teacher of many senior humanities courses, I take pride in the reports I receive from my former students once they have matriculated:
Although I always enjoyed your classes, I did not realize how much they would help me in college. Your senior seminar classes were especially helpful! … I have realized that being able to analyze books critically is extremely valuable, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to sharpen my skills in your classes. – Molly L.
Your expectations for us definitely took the way in which I read texts, voice my opinions, write essays, and study for tests to the next level… When I'm writing an essay, I always try to envision what your feedback would be and make changes accordingly. – Emmy H.
From the bottom of my heart, you are without a doubt the best teacher I have ever had. I just feel like you should know that the passion you feel for the subjects you teach is transferred to your students. Your interest in the material and general knowledge about any topic we are discussing is sometimes astounding. – Emma K.
I look forward to working with your son or daughter next.