$1 and a yard sale that would change everything

The Unassuming Yard Sale

It was a crisp August morning in 2013 - Saturday, to be exact -  when the 'good' yard sales are long gone, and all that is left is the leftovers. Justin and his wife were enjoying treasure hunting with their five kids at a few neighborhood yard sales.  For some reason, Justin walked up to a small yard with junk scattered everywhere.  No organization. Random piles of books and bags.  The kind of yard sale you always skip over.  Little did he know this 'random stop' would change the course of his life.

More Deaths Than Diplomas

At the time, Justin was in his third year as Principal of a private high school for court adjudicated boys, age 15-19, who had run into trouble with the law, drugs, or alcohol.  While every day was different, one thing that stayed constant was the reality that the mere attainment of a diploma did not equate to success post-graduation.  Issues of character, discipline, addiction and identity ultimately caused Justin to attend more funerals than college graduations of the young men that left his high school.

So, as he happened across that yard and sifted through the books haphazardly stacked on a chair, his eyes were drawn to a book called "The Price Of Freedom".  Underneath the title, it said 'Coolidge'. Not being much of a history buff or a reader of old books (at the time), Justin was struck by the title and literally thought 'Coolidge' was simply a 'cool name.'  (Only later did he recall that Calvin Coolidge was our 30th President.)  The book looked really old - with a wax paper insert and a copyright of 1924 - but it was still in decent shape.  Flipping through, he caught the title of an essay in the middle of the book entitled 'The Needs of Education.'  Being a dutiful Principal, he figured it was worth a quick read, if only for the sake of the great title about freedom. 

How much?  $1.  Deal.

Train To The Future

A few weeks later, on a train ride with some colleagues in public education from Lancaster, PA to Harlem, NY, Justin found time to read the life-changing essay 'The Needs of Education'.  In it, Calvin Coolidge shared some profound insights into the shortcomings of our pursuits of 'mere intellectual education'.  He noted that 'True education empowers both the intellectual power and the moral power of a human being. Efforts to achieve the one without the other cannot be met with success.'  And later in his essay, he elaborated that 'it was beside the place of worship that there grew up a school, because man was realized for the value of his soul.'

It instantly made sense to Justin why these 'second-chance' learners from his school were obtaining intellectual rewards, but failing in life: there was not both the moral and the intellectual empowerment.


The idea for Coolidge Academy was born.  The goal?  The create a platform for the empowerment of both the intellect and the soul - to develop the moral character and the intellectual capabilities of an individual simultaneously.  

What better way to do that than to have the educational experience be connected relationally (through apprenticeships) and not merely be an exercise in memorization of facts that will produce a passing score.

Justin left his role as Principal of the high school in 2014 to begin to develop his ideas practically. He began talking with local business owners about their concerns about high levels of turnover in entry level employees, and their concerns about second-chance learners.  He developed a group of businesses who agreed that if a student were to graduate from a Coolidge Academy course, they would give them an opportunity to interview for an apprentice position.

Worth The Wait

Like all good things, it took time, trial and error, conversations and many trips back to the drawing board. Along the way, Justin Rule met Adam Grim while working at a nationally-known Internet Marketing Agency in 2015.  Adam had spent the last decade in analytics and conversion optimization, analyzing digital trends and researching consumer behavior online.  Adam also had a heart for the second-career, overlooked learners who had potential, but needed direction and wise counsel to develop their talents.  Adam helped Justin realize that Coolidge Academy could start on a digital platform and still be as effective as a physical location - with less overhead and logistics to delivering content.  

Justin and Adam had both seen the struggles that local digital marketing agencies were having to find quality team members who had industry experience, strong work ethic, were willing to be taught, and eager to learn.

So, in September of 2016 - over 90 years after Calvin Coolidge wrote those words, and three years after Justin stumbled across them for $1 at a yard sale - the Coolidge Academy launched its campaign to develop the first classes in digital education that would open doors to local apprenticeships.

A Fresh Start

In January 2017, those who are looking for a second-chance or a second-career, without the desire for college debt and uncertain returns for their time investment, will have a pathway to explore their interests in branding, digital marketing, or design.  

Coolidge Academy will help those looking to find a career that will embrace them in spite of mistakes they may have made in the past, and provide them with a streamlined pathway to a meaningful career while being taught by some of the best in the industry. Students will be able to choose from a variety of courses in digital media and marketing, all for affordable tuition with scholarships available!

Coolidge Academy's unique approach to digital education is the marriage of both the intellectual skill development, thanks to the input of nationally recognized experts and local industry leaders, interwoven with the development of an individual's moral and character compass along the way.

Who knew a dollar spent at a yard sale would change so many lives?