Orenda Fall 2017 Kickoff and Launch

This past weekend marked the launch of Orenda’s Fall 2017 12-week program. Orenda has been running for over a year now and we have now worked with about 40 families, coaching their children to become more aware of their own life goals, achieve clarity around how to direct their own lives and learn how to be more socially confident in interacting with others.

Co-Founders Carl and Brandon goofing around at Kickoff

Cat, Brandon and I got involved in creating Orenda because we felt we needed personal development support when we were growing up. Each of us struggled through painful experiences in middle and high school and didn’t know how to best navigate them. Brandon and I grew up in the Bay Area and both went to Lynbrook High School. We were both unmotivated and confused about the purpose of both school and our lives. We struggled to swim through a murky sea of shame, confusion, self-doubt and bitterness. We were lonely and undirected teenagers who used video games to escape our pain. Cat, who grew up in Texas, was studious, motivated, and a perfect student on paper, but was equally lost when it came to what kind of person she wanted to be. She struggled with self-advocacy, keeping friends, and managing her sensitivity and emotions at a young age, which sometimes led to heated arguments with teachers. She often used school and extracurricular activities to fill her schedule and distract herself.

All three of us wanted guidance in life, but could not find it at the time.


We started Orenda to give current students the guidance we needed in our past. We know that there are a lot of educational programs for students. Parents have to choose to spend money on SAT camps, summer enrichment programs, college counselors, tutors and more. Yet all of these programs are focused on addressing the narrow questions of What to do or How to do the things society tells families make successful students.

It is important to know the How and What. We don’t disagree. But what Brandon, Cat, myself and many of today’s students need is not the How or What. What we need is the answer to the Why. Orenda is the only organization we know of that helps families answer questions about the Why of life and school.

Our 12-week program helps students find their own answers questions like the following:

  • Why am I working so hard to get to college when it’s making me miserable and stressed?

  • Why is school so boring?

  • Why can’t I change myself even though I’m ashamed and frustrated with my current life?

  • Why don’t I fit in socially with my classmates and how do make friends? How do I be less socially awkward? How do I be more confident?

  • What’s the point of life? What’s the point of MY life?

  • Why do I procrastinate so much? How do I stop?

  • How can I get my parents to understand me? Why won’t they listen? Why can’t they trust me?

We also help parents get more insight into:

  • Why does my child not want to share more about their life with me?

  • Why doesn’t my child listen to me?

  • How can I fight less with my child?

  • How can I learn to communicate with my child?

  • What activities is my child doing online and with their technology?

Parents and students learn to be playful and open to new experiences

At our kickoff, we ask students to self-reflect and describe their ideal life, ideal relationship with parents and then describe why their life doesn’t currently look ideal. For many of our students, participating in our program is the first time they clearly and explicitly define what they want out of their lives.

We ask parents to do the same exercise, although they more clearly define the life the want for their child as well as the relationship they would like to have with their child. It is important for us to see what goals our families have and how to best align the goals of the child and parents. These goals set by the child and parents are the focus of our 12-week program, both in our group sessions and 1:1 coaching sessions.

Example of questions on our student worksheet below.

Example questions from our parent worksheet below.

Our program just launched this past week, and there’s a lot more we hope to accomplish with all of the families in our program. We’re looking forward to helping foster independent thinking, assist aimless students in discovering direction and teaching valuable life-skills to families.

This wraps up week one. Next week we will help students dive deeply into answering the question, “What makes me happy and why?” We’re looking forward to the 11 amazing weeks to come.


If you are interested in learning more about participating in Orenda Academy, please fill out this link: Spring 2018 Interest Form.

We are also holding a limited number of spots for Spring 2018 virtual coaching where coaches work online with students not in the Bay Area. Please indicate if you are interested. You can also email us at carl@orendaacademy.com.