What is ATI?


Virtual School



Education for life

The Academy of Thought and Industry is a modern middle and high school that offers a distinct, student-driven learning experience.

Reimagining adolescent education

Enthusiasm for school drops dramatically between fifth and twelfth grade, with nearly 75% of students reporting negative feelings towards school.

Now more than ever, students are tired, stressed, and bored. They need an educational option that is appropriate for their developmental stage, and tailored to their individual needs.

We believe there's a better way.

Reimagining adolescent education

A letter from Dr. Laura Mazer,

Executive Director

Welcome to the Academy of Thought and Industry: we’re so glad you’re here! We believe that ATI is a truly unique educational opportunity for middle and high school students. Take a look around the website, reach out with questions, or tour one of our schools. This is education not as it has been, but as it can be: something designed specifically for adolescents, something designed for life.

Adolescence is a period of intense physical and emotional growth. You are transitioning from childhood to adulthood—from depending on your parents, family, and teachers to a space where you decide your own path. What an incredible journey! What an exciting process, occasionally overwhelming, potentially fraught, inevitably profound. No matter where you spend these years, you will emerge on the other side having changed dramatically.

In many ways, traditional schools are at odds with the needs of this period of change: you’re forced to conform to a system that has at its core not your needs as a growing, changing, striving, individual—but the needs of the system itself. Alternative schools often allow you free rein to choose your own pursuits, skipping from project to project, but without that deep attention to knowledge that would fully unlock your mind’s potential. The alternatives are: rigid structure where knowledge is abstracted from application, or free structure where applications are abstracted from knowledge.

The Academy of Thought and Industry is the third option. Here, we pursue the union of thought and industry, of the mind and the hand. Our students don’t just memorize—they understand, by integrating and applying at every step. Each concept is placed into the world. Each lesson is motivated with the exploration of a real-world problem to capture the imagination and spark curiosity. From the introduction of the number line in mathematics to a Socratic discussion on the nature of the good life in liberal arts, here we find no conflict between the intellectual and the practical. And this continues as you mature and evolve through our program. By high school, you get the chance to master, apply, and expand knowledge on your own terms. Our students take film-making classes in order to actually make movies. They take economics courses because they are starting their own businesses—or more abstract economics because they want to understand the theories that make up the living human world in which they are preparing to take part.

One of our middle school classes in New York is running a thriving compost business; a high school student in Texas has a professional photography studio with international clients. Our students pursue internships in government, business, healthcare, and the arts. As a student at ATI , you make sense of and shape your world. Adolescence is a time for belonging: not just in a local community, but to the great human project.

You might be asking: who are these incredible teenagers?

Who are these people who fall in love with knowledge, engage in intense debates on literature, seek out opportunities for adventure, and work together to create campus communities of mutual respect, engagement, and possibility?

In some ways, our students are extraordinary. In other ways, they are the most natural and healthy people of all: they are unusual only in that they are actualizing the potential that is perfectly, universally ordinary. You do not need to be an exceptional student to benefit from a school that will adapt to your needs, and you do not need to be struggling in traditional learning in order to thrive here.

Maria Montessori wrote, “The chief symptom of adolescence is a state of expectation, a tendency towards creative work and a need for the strengthening of self-confidence.”

You are in a period of life where support and independence are needed in equal measure, and where the lack of either is equally destructive: an ability to survive is not a guarantee of thriving. At ATI, you get to explore this period of transition into adulthood with graduated agency: each step you take here will open up greater choices, greater possibilities, and greater independence. But you will always have behind you the support, structure, and care of your coach, your guides, and your ATI community. Here, you can fully explore your own rapidly expanding self.

We can’t wait to meet you.

Dr. Laura Mazer, MD MHPE

When I was at my college prep school, I didn't have the freedom to pursue projects that weren't considered core academic subjects. But when I got to ATI, not only did I have the freedom to follow my interests, I also had the encouragement I needed from my teachers.

JP Barbagelata

ATI graduate, now studying Film and Photography at Bard College NY

Our program pillars

Curriculum rooted in thought and industry

Montessori emphasized that teens should do real work: not just in school, but fully in the world. At ATI, we remove the artificial barrier between the vocational and the avocational; what's required for class and what's chosen for life. Our students integrate their passions with their studies, unlocking their potential to:

  • Do real work in the world
  • Serve as a productive member of a community
  • Realize the natural desire for independence


Every student is paired with a 1:1 coach as they proceed through middle and high school. The coaching curriculum has been built by educational experts and psychologists, to support the process of self-creation that is so fundamental to adolescence. The coaching process emphasizes:

  • Self-worth
  • Self-efficacy
  • Self-creation


In a small school community, students learn and practice self-governance, interdependence, and conflict resolution, gaining a sense of ownership and pride for the community around them. And each school is a part of the larger network, with access to expert guides and a larger peer community.

  • The benefits of a small school
  • The resources of a global network

Our values

The mission of ATI is to help our students reach their potential and live their fullest lives, empowering them through an education grounded in our core values. These values represent our vision for flourishing student development- what it means for an adolescent to reach her potential and live a full life.

We pursue knowledge not as an academic exercise, but to improve our judgment and actions in the world.

The Pursuit of Knowledge

We believe that human beings, using their reason, judgment and passion, are capable of leading self-directed lives of profound meaning and worth. We seek to always acknowledge and respect our own power to act, and to develop and exercise our capacity to act with purpose, integrity and conviction in pursuit of our aspirations.

The power of agency

Purposeful work is central to a life well lived. In choosing our work, we direct our energies intentionally toward our goals, bring structure and focus to our lives, and reshape our worlds. Through cultivating our capacity for work, as well as our appreciation of the rewards of work well done, we develop a character capable of genuine effort and great achievement

The love of work

We recognize the value of deep, honest relationships, and we offer others an authentic self that makes such relationships possible. We enliven and enrich each other through our choice to share norms, practices and expectations. In doing so, we experience the joy of belonging and develop a deep and abiding sense of love and responsibility for the communities we embrace.

The joy of community

To fully engage with the world requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability and moral courage. In order to become our best selves, we bravely face our insecurities and have the courage to care deeply about our values. We embrace the everlasting process of personal growth that is the hallmark of being human, and that allows us to live wholeheartedly.

The courage to live wholehearted

Experience school on your terms

Join a school community designed to support your education with coaching, small classes, and a commitment to our core values. Engage in deep study and personal exploration as a student at ATI.

Learn more about our:

Visit Higher Ground Education to learn more about our mission to make learner-centered education the mainstream.

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