Redefining “merit” in our education system


Kristin Kim, founder of Austin OneHeart School, has dedicated the past 20+ years to creating a new paradigm for learning. Along the way she has served in multiple roles: educator, online education company CEO, Harvard program director, attorney, entrepreneur, nonprofit board member, parent, and many more. She joins us on the blog today to announce a new merit-based scholarship program at her school and to explain why she decided to create it. [The school website is under maintenance this weekend, so if you get an error message, please check back in a couple of days.]

Starting a new alternative school in Austin has taught me a lot. Austin, with its freedom-loving spirit and progressive mindset, is an ideal environment for alternative education. As many of Austin’s alternative school founders have shared with me, it takes hard work and love to create and sustain a school. And I am happy to add my voice and vision and serve families who are seeking more than what traditional schools offer.


The most enjoyable part of my job is meeting and getting to know students and families who leave the conventional school system. The students are incredibly creative, inquisitive, and intelligent, and they are an inspiration for me. I treasure sharing our respective learning journeys, and I respect their boldness. It takes guts to listen to one’s heart and go against the current!

As I thought more about our new school, Austin OneHeart School, and its mission, the more I wanted to celebrate students choosing alternative education and their amazing talents. The National Merit Scholarships, for example, recognize and award academic achievements, but they measure academic achievements almost solely by grades, ranking, and test scores. Just as alternative education has redefined “learning,” I want to change how we all view “merit” and celebrate excellence that goes beyond grades and test scores.

I am happy to announce that Austin OneHeart School will offer full and partial merit-based scholarships for its Upper School (11–18 years) starting in early 2018. The OneHeart Scholars will be selected based on their scholarly achievements, extracurricular leadership, and good citizenship.

Scholarly achievements will include not only school evaluations or their equivalents for homeschoolers but also a student’s record of self-directed and holistic learning. We will consider academic curiosity and innovative ways a student has engaged in learning.


Extracurricular leadership will include activities outside the school, such as athletics, student-led volunteer work, and charity work. We want to see how a student has channeled his or her energy outside of school.

Lastly, good citizenship will include anything students have done to better their community in some way. We are interested in finding what they care about in their environment, in and out of school.

I believe these merit-based scholarships will also make a statement to college admissions offices. Yes, alternatively schooled students are also merit scholars, and it’s time we recognize and celebrate their amazing accomplishments!

For more information on the OneHeart Scholarships, please contact Kristin at The deadline for applying for a 2018 Scholarship is November 30, 2017.


Austin OneHeart School is located in South Austin, at 8601 South 1st Street (near Slaughter), and offers lower school (ages 3–6) and upper school (ages 11–18) programs. Austin OneHeart School is a part of and is not affiliated with any religious, ethnic, or political organization.

Kristin Kim