Round Rock’s 21st Academy: Reimagining Education

“If I can’t fix it, let me build something better,” says Nicholle Walton-Durban co-founder and executive director of 21st Academy when speaking of the education system in the United States. Along with co-founder Joanne Nolte, Walton-Durban believes that every child is a genius. And these two Moms on a Mission, along with their Board of Directors, are actively working to make it better.

The mission at 21st Academy is to redefine and reimagine education for the 21st century that will inspire, equip, and connect all learners, while developing their unique talents, passion and purpose. “We want to build a better tomorrow by building powerful learning communities, programs, and opportunities that meet learners where they are and empower them to take the reins in their learning journey.” One on-mission program 21st Academy supports is E.S.T.E.A.M. Academy (an Acton Academy Affiliate), a project-based, Socratic, learner-led micro-school based in Round Rock. E.S.T.E.A.M. is an abbreviation of Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics. The program removes arbitrary boundaries, such as age or academic year, as an indicator of what a learner should be able to do. Instead, the 21st Academy curriculum focuses on the individual student, or “Hero”, to pave their own path towards mastery while developing relevant life skills and forging deep character. The love of learning and creativity is evident at E.S.T.E.A.M. Academy. Brightly colored artistic walls and the immense outdoor play area allow for plenty of space for playing or dreaming.

Flexible program offerings include 2-day, 3-day, or 5-day options and can include a robust summer camp experience after completion of the 9-month core academic program which runs September through May. (Learn more at What do you do at E.S.T.E.A.M? – YouTube.)

21st Academy not only supports E.S.T.E.A.M Academy, but also and E.S.T.E.A.M. Learning Labs – a robust enrichment program that serves learning communities all over Central Texas in locations that include: E.S.T.E.A.M Academy, RRISD, City of Austin, the YMCA, and many others. E.S.T.E.A.M. Learning Labs hosts amazing clubs and classes in Robotics, Coding, Engineering, Video Game Design, Board Games, Cooking, Art, 3D Printing, Filmmaking, and much more.

The continued growth of both these programs demonstrates that there is both a need and demand for this type of learning in our community. 21st Academy is committed to meeting that need with powerful programming. Future endeavors of the non-profit include the Co-Lab, a membership-based, “We Work/We Learn” fusion, and a Teen Entrepreneur Academy. “Our ultimate vision is to house all these programs at a first of its kind innovative Co-Learning Community Campus right here in Round Rock to service the community as a whole. A one-stop shop, if you will.” Through their core values of community, inclusion, accountability, empowerment, and freedom, 21st Academy is working to promote connection and life-long learning across Central Texas.

However, programming isn’t the only way 21st Academy is supporting the community. The organization is also committed to making an impact by creating locally relevant events and increasing access and opportunity for learners and other educational innovators through avenues like student scholarships, grants, and fundraising partnerships. An example event is the E.S.T.E.A.M. Academy’s Children’s Business Fair.  For the last two years, 21st Academy has hosted the Fair, in partnership with the CHASCO Family YMCA and many other community sponsors.  The Fair provides an opportunity where students from ages 4-to 17 create their own businesses and sell their own products and creations (see 5th Annual ESTEAM Academy Children’s Business Fair – 2022 – YouTube).  

This summer, 21st Academy is launching the Re-Imagine Education Expo. The homegrown Expo will be held at the Wingate Williamson Conference Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. The goal is to bring local resources, options, and offerings to families and learners in Central Texas. Expo content includes panels of local speakers and exhibitors that include schools and enrichment programming, community organizations, job opportunities, and much more. The event has the support of Champion Sponsors like PiggyBack Network and Alt Ed Austin.  To get your FREE ticket to attend, visit www.reimagineeducationexpo.com and use promo code “RTR”.

Advocating for programs like inspired project-based, student-led, Socratic hands-on micro-schools and community-centric enrichment programming, as well as creating locally empowering community events, 21st Academy of Round Rock is at the cutting edge of rethinking and reimagining education. Right here.  In our own backyard. 

For more information or to see how you can get involved, please visit 21st Academy (21st-academy.org), http://www.esteamacademyrr.com/, and https://esteamlearninglabs.com/.

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