Meet Jonathan Shanin of the Benjamin Franklin Experience…
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
The Benjamin Franklin Experience is a summer program (2-week courses) based out of Greenville that is open to teens ages 14-18 and as you could have guessed it the name is inspired by Ben Franklin’s incredible career. The BFE exposes students to a wide variety of careers via day-long experiences, each lead by an expert in their profession. The fields include STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) art, journalism, law, medicine and more. Their Founder & Executive Director excelled in many of those careers even before founding the BFE. Now to better understand this educational organization, let’s go meet Jonathan Shanin of the Benjamin Franklin Experience.
360: How did the Benjamin Franklin Experience come to life?
Jonathan: Benjamin Franklin Experience (BFE) was designed as the answer to two problems:
- That most students don’t have the skills they need to thrive in the 21st-century workforce; and
- How are students supposed to choose a gratifying career path without being exposed to some inspiring options?
College debt is a huge issue in this country. There is a feeling among students that they can’t afford to make a mistake in choosing a major or pursuing a career path. But how are they to know if they want to be an environmental scientist or help people with disabilities if they’ve never had the opportunity to try on that career? We expose students to career fields they never knew existed. It opens their eyes to the world of possibilities that await them.
BFExperience comes to life continued…
Jonathan: There’s also a lot of talk about what employers are looking for in new hires—both hard technical skills and soft skills. BFE graduates have a leg up over the competition, as we demonstrably increase the social-emotional intelligence and human skills that employers crave.
360: What are the favorite experiences that the Benjamin Franklin Experience offers?
Jonathan: The student’s favorite days vary dramatically. Each of our experiences are designed to allow students with different intelligence types to shine, there isn’t a clear favorite. So musical and artistic students will thrive in audio production—so do some of the introverted, technically-inclined students. Compassionate caretakers love the day helping people with disabilities. Kids who love to be outdoors are delighted to be knee deep in a stream on environmental science day. All of our students benefit from our writing, and elevator pitch experiences—and most students say the day in kinesics (learning to read body language and facial expressions) empowered them with tools they use every day.
360: What do you love most about your role at BFExperience?
Jonathan: I love staying in touch with Alumni. Hearing what’s going on with our students is one of the deepest joys in my life. I speak with at least one alumnus every day. Some days I’m able to help an alumnus through a difficult moment in life, other days I just listen.
360: Tell us more about the upcoming Summer Program.
Jonathan: We are thrilled to have several companies and individuals returning to create experiences this year: Prisma Health, Thrive Upstate, Furman Environmental Science, Composer Cale Pellick and Producer Matt Morgan, Asheville Improv Collective. We are also very excited to be working with new hosts and instructors this year: Let People See video production, Attorney and Swing Dancer, Irvan Tyan is flying in from California, and Dick Brooks Honda will be creating some fascinating new experiences for our students.
Summer Program continued…
Jonathan: Right now, we are putting out a call for visiting-mentors—high-performing executives who would love to attend some of our experiences alongside students. We are looking for professionals who are willing to share elements of their career stories—particularly personal struggles along the way—to help our students understand what it takes to achieve success.
360: What’s next for the BFExperience? Anything new on the horizon?
Jonathan: We are going to continue to deepen our relationships here in Greenville, and hope to increase the number of students we accept in 2020 by a third. We are also going to select the next location for BFE this fall. So stay tuned for announcements regarding our national expansion plans.
360: This is awesome, Jonathan. Thank you for all your hard work bringing and sustaining the BFExperience in the Upstate!
Want to meet more people in the Upstate? Read our past interviews here.