We now have a deep financial literacy after-school program for 10th-12th graders - find out more here.

Our Why

A message from our founder, Heidi DeCoux.

Several years ago, I did a major renovation project on a large property I had purchased. In addition to the professional tradespeople I’d hired, I used Craigslist to hire a crew of people, all in their early twenties, to help with general labor.

As I got to know the people on my general labor crew, I learned that many of them had similar stories: 

  • Many had grown up in low-income, single-mother homes. 
  • They had all attended the same local high school.
  • They were all told by their guidance counselors that they essentially had two options in life: either attend a 4-year college, or work at a gas station or factory. 
  • Since they felt (or in many cases, had been told) that a 4-year college was not an option for them and that they had no other options, they actually did end up working at gas stations and factories in the area, and took side jobs on Craigslist to make ends meet.

While working with the professional tradespeople on my project, these young men witnessed another option that their guidance counselor hadn’t told them about.  They saw that they could be hired for $40k – $60k per year, immediately after attending a short, affordable trade-school program. They could go on to make a six-figure income after only 5 years in the field.

After several months of working together, my house project was complete, and the members of the crew went their separate ways. I was thrilled that some of them did end up attending trade school to become electricians and plumbers. They’re now all gainfully employed, making good livings, doing something they love and that fills them with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Another member of the crew, Jesus, was an incredibly sweet guy with an excellent work ethic and a knack for landscaping. I loved having him on the project. Everyone loved working with him.  But his story turned out differently. 

That same week that the renovation ended — and Jesus’s employment with me ended — Jesus was also let go from his gas station job, because the owner had sold the gas station and the new owner wanted his family to cover all of the shifts.  

So Jesus lost all of his income in just one week. 

Not surprisingly, he fell behind on his rent. In a moment of desperation, he attempted to rob the local library with a handgun that wasn’t loaded, got caught, and ended up with a 5-year prison sentence. I was heartbroken when I heard this news. 

I thought about the consequences for him. He’ll spend some of the best years of his life in prison, and with a felony on his record, he’ll have even fewer career options when he gets out. 

And I thought about the consequences for usWe taxpayers will pay over $100k per year to keep him locked up, and we’ll miss out on having him be a happy, tax-paying, contributing member of our shared society.

And I thought about how this could have been prevented. 

While the reasons for Jesus’s struggles were complex and layered, I know that had Jesus had a different schooling experience, his life would look entirely different. 

What if he had known his options, had good mentorship, and had the opportunity to get to know himself and how he could move toward the life he wanted?  Instead of being in prison, he could have his own landscaping company, own a home, have a family, and most importantly, be living his best life as a happy and contributing member of society.

And so, I came up with a plan. I called the high school these young men had attended and offered, as a local entrepreneur, to teach a career class. For free. I explained that my class would show students their full range of options, and help them understand and chart a course toward the life they want. 

The high school declined my offer. They told me that they provided adequate career counseling to their students. The problem was so glaring.

And right then I decided, if we can’t do this (and other) important work in existing schools, then I’ll have to build a school that we can do this important work in. And so, I founded Illuminated Life School

Kids spend 40 hours a week at school. It has a huge impact on them, for better or for worse.

Together we can make it… for better.  We can create an environment where kids are seen in their fullness and their potential. We can hire teachers and staff who know how to tend to the wellbeing of the whole person. We can provide resources that help kids understand themselves — what motivates and inspires them, what they’re afraid of, what they want — so that they can make choices in full awareness. We can teach kids critical life skills such as deep financial literacy, communication, problem-solving, how to care for their mental, physical and emotional well-being, and more.  We can create a classroom situation that’s actually based on the current research about what works to help kids learn, instead of just continuing blindly with antiquated methods of instruction that are failing us year after year. 

You’re invited to be part of the solution.

Shaking up the status quo is no small task – but together we can do amazing things.

WHERE WE’RE STARTING: To test our programming and to start uplifting kids immediately, we launched an after-school program.

It’s called Financial Titans, and our first cohort of students is from under-resourced families and many experience food insecurity.

We are feeding them a primarily organic protein and plant-rich meal each night of the program, helping them make their first $1,000 and set up bank accounts, teaching them deep financial literacy, showing them how to care for their mental and emotional well-being, and teaching them communication skills and a few other necessary life skills.

This comprehensive 6-month after-school program will be life-changing for these kids and break the cycle of poverty they’re currently living in.

For more details or to donate or get involved, go here

For every $1,000 you donate, you can put a student through this 6-month program and change the trajectory of their lives, which will have a profound ripple effect. 

IN PHASE 2, we’ll be offering our after-school program curriculum so schools and families across the world can launch their own version of Financial Titans. 

IN PHASE 3, we’ll launch micro-schools (pod schools) with sliding-scale tuition.

We are a qualifying 501c3 non-profit, so all donations are tax-deductible, and we have 1101.01(a) Status, so your Act 22/60 mandatory donation qualifies (we’re also a CECFL charity – the additional designation of eradicating childhood poverty). You’ll receive an official letter/receipt to include with your Act 22/60 Exempt Annual Report within 8 business days of receiving your donation.

THANK YOU for coming along the journey with me. 


Heidi DeCoux
Founder & President of the Board