For Felix Ruano, getting out of his comfort zone is a key to success. He is a 2013 graduate of the Ambassador School of Global Leadership (ASGL) in Los Angeles, a high school opened as part of the International Studies School Network (ISSN) in 2008. According to Felix, “where’s there’s chaos, there’s opportunity – and that’s where the passion comes out.”
Growing up in inner-city LA, Felix had the life-changing opportunity to attend a well-healed private secondary school far across town. Like his stint after high school as a Gates Millennium Scholar at Harvard University, attending the private school was like “studying abroad.” But rather than continuing there through high school, Ruano chose to attend a large public high school in his freshman year and transferred to the newly opened ASGL as a sophomore. “I liked the fact that ASGL was a start-up, and it didn’t have everything all figured out. But the teachers had a mission; for us to explore broad topics outside the confines of the school to develop a global mindset. That was super important to me.”
Collin Felch, in 2008 a mathematics teacher at ASGL and now the principal of Vista Heritage Global Academy, an ISSN school, remembers Felix as “a brilliant student, always really curious, but not a traditional student at all — he didn’t see the purpose of a lot of the standard approaches to learning that we were doing. So, he learned in his own way and aced every test! He made me realize that some of the approaches we were taking needed to change. I learned as much from him as he did from me.”
After college, curiosity, passion, and a natural keen-eyed entrepreneurialism set Felix on a mission of his own to use cutting edge technologies to improve the quality of learning at a national and global scale. Noting the disconnect between how young people navigate digital landscapes and current online learning opportunities, Ruano co-founded Emile Learning, an online learning platform offering high school courses completely redesigned around highly engaging, short form videos and other powerful inquiry- and mastery-based pedagogies and assessment practices taught by master teachers.
Emile Learning has the potential to revolutionize secondary school education by offering to students and teachers anytime, anywhere access to courses that extend learning opportunities exponentially, especially in underserved communities. In less than two years of its founding, Emile Learning has attracted millions in venture capital and earned Felix a spot on Forbes “30 under 30” most notable entrepreneurs in education. His is truly a success story in the making, and as Collin Felch says, “Watch what happens next!”