While people of many disciplines and religions discuss a light that exists within us, Alix Schwartz of Santa Clarita has a calling that helps people discover the benefits of its brightness. With a master’s degree in social work and visits to Dubai, the U.K. and the Philippines behind her, she’s got a message with global implications.
The 27-year-old USC graduate is promoting “positive education,” an approach that incorporates the science of positive psychology with its emphasis on personal strengths, encouragement and support. Its aim is to foster well-being in students and educators and see individuals, schools and communities flourish.
In her passion to turn ideas into reality, Schwartz found her most useful tool is language, so writing a book seemed natural.
“I saw this gap between social work and positive education,” she said. “How can I really embody the tools and applications to apply this to my work … especially right now? What came out of it is this book.”
Schwartz joined forces with illustrator Matt Geiler and co-authored the book with a storyline promulgating these concepts. “A Bright House,” which will be released Aug. 7 and available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, shows the transformation of a sad, lonely boy who brightens up after meeting a new friend named “Hope.” It’s a picture book with an enchanting story about kindness – where the little boy learns to “let his bright out.”
After years of study and intensive training, Schwartz had a message to communicate, so she approached Geiler.
“I have the content, the story, the people backing me in the positive education sector, all the industry thought leaders,” Schwartz told Geiler. “I just need it written and I need it to be illustrated.”
“A Bright House” is the first in a series – the authors already wrote the second book, “Bright and Hope’s Wildest Dream,” which is expected to be released before the holidays.
“It’s 100 percent collaboration,” Schwartz said. “Something like this is a paradigm shift in how people work when it comes to big projects like this. … A lot of people, when they get involved in projects, their first thing is, ‘What am I going to get paid?’ … What better way to share the love and joy through a book series (than) just give our time for it.”
Everyone involved is contributing their time and talent for free.
“With my background in social work, I’m very much open to doing grassroots projects,” Schwartz said. “I don’t want to crowdfund or crowdsource for this project.”
The book’s metaphors and messages underscore the inclusive, cooperative values of positive education.
The story of “A Bright House” comes from the young author’s personal experiences. She was suffering from depression and a lack of clear direction, but a chance meeting on an airplane was a turning point. She sat next to Michelle Gielan, author of “Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change,” who told her: “You’re right where you need to be. You have a light, it just needs to come out.”
Gielan’s words inspired her to sign up for a certificate course in positive psychology. “I literally took an entire year to work on myself – and it changed my life. From there I said, ‘I’m going to get my master’s in social work.’”
The young woman’s growth included internships at Live Happy in Texas, and she traveled to the Philippines to work on an innovation project, which she punctuated by authoring an article on climate change and happiness.
She also attended the International Positive Education Network Conference, which drew over 1,000 people from 42 countries.
“Educational leaders are impacting the lives of all learners through the creation of dynamic education ecosystems,” said Schwartz, who studied the concept of pairing positive education with leadership, administration, teachers, parents, etc. “The positive education field has a goal to change all school systems by 2051. … We designed and imagined what that would look like from 25 different angles.”
Well-being, character, academics and nurturing are parts of the system they envisioned.
“It’s not so much what we are trying to do; we’re literally changing the language,” Schwartz said. “Instead of the ‘educational system’ it’s the ‘thriving system.’”
Her goal is that a paradigm shift would occur that could overpower the myriad problems in the culture of young people, including suicide, depression, bullying, eating disorders and teacher burnout.
“Redesigning the entire education system,” she said. “We need a new vision.”
Schwartz also attended the Women Economic Empowerment Global Summit in Dubai, where they addressed female oppression, among other issues.
“We need to continue inspiring and empowering other women to do things like this,” she said. “How are we empowered to follow our dreams?”
Schwartz uses such language as “holding ourselves to a degree of greatness” and addresses how to implement these ideas. “This is how: We come together. We turn to each other for advice. We really embody what women bring to the table. It can be challenging, but that’s when we fall on our friends.”
For Alix Schwartz, “hope” isn’t just a character in her book series – it’s a character quality she’d like to see more often. And if a high value is placed on hope, chances are good the future will be bright.
“A Bright House” is available for pre-sale purchase at Brightandhope.com before the Aug. 7 wide release.
Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal.