Yass Prize Winners to be Showcased at ALEC’s 50th Annual Meeting
Challenging the traditional methods of education
ALEC’s 50th Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL is just a month away, and we are excited to feature past winners of the Yass Prize – an award created by Jeff and Janine Yass to honor innovative education providers for providing sustainable, transformational, outstanding, and permissionless education. Last year alone, the Yass Prize handed out more than $20 million to numerous innovators who were recognized for “breaking the rules” in education and finding new ways to maximize student success.
The organization’s inaugural awardee of the $1 million Yass Prize was the Discovery Center of Springfield, MO. They were one of two science centers in the entire country not to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Discovery Center’s Executive Director, Rob Blevins, recognized the needs of the community and leased a vacant facility for their educators to teach. There they created learning pods for students to engage in virtual learning with the assistance of an in-person instructor. Then, in 2021, they expanded to create the Discovery School to provide free, high-quality education to dozens of full-time students.
Last year, the $1 million award went to the Arizona Autism Charter Schools – the first autism-focused charter school in the western United States. A truly American story, the school was founded by Diana Diaz-Harrison out of need and love. Her son, Sammy, is autistic, and the local public school couldn’t begin to address Sammy’s unique learning requirements. Undaunted by naysayers, Diana partnered with members of the community to take advantage of Arizona’s inspiring charter school law and founded Arizona Autism Charter Schools. The school primarily relies upon Applied Behavior Analysis and individualized instruction to help their students succeed.
The Discovery Center and Arizona Autism Charter Schools are just two of the many deserving awardees that have been recognized by the Yass Prize. Each challenging the traditional methods of education to provide the students and families with more. Those of us at ALEC are eager to highlight past Yass Prize winners during our 50th Annual Meeting and look forward to recognizing the next generation of innovators as they continue to reimagine the process of education in the United States.