An Interview with Ave Hummings, 2050 student commencement speaker for Akron’s School of Life & Impact.

by EbaNee Bond

Disclaimer: The following is a work of realistic fiction for our special 2050 issue, published in June 2021. These stories are meant to spark imagination, not forecast the future of Akron. 

In 2021, analysis after analysis reported that the continual mistreatment of humans and resources would produce disastrous outcomes that would lead to society collapsing on itself. By the early half of the 2030s, 37% of the workforce was walking off their jobs, college enrollment had been decreasing by 11% annually for five years, public transportation couldn’t support the 45% increase in mobility needs for people who couldn’t drive their cars due to unaffordable gas prices and the price of food and water had increased 27%. 

Fortunately, The School of Life & Impact (SLI) started preparing for this in 2025 right here in Akron, OH. I got the chance to sit down with Ave Humming, a student from The Akron School of Life & Impact’s recent 20th graduating class who also happens to be the daughter of one of the founders.

Click here to read more content from our 2050 issue.

EbaNee Bond: Tell us about how The School of Life & Impact got started.

Ave Humming: My parents and the other Co-Founders of The School of Life & Impact were so passionate about creating more sustainable relationships with each other and Mother Earth. They didn’t like to see each other muddling their potential and were just so thirsty to do something different. They started with learning about different facets of personal and community development and critically defining what community meant to them. For them, community not only meant having shared values but focused on the idea that you couldn’t separate community from proximity. So, they began with investing in a block and buying every property on it, including a church and school building.

As they began to build culture on their block, more and more people wanted to be a part of and buy into the community. That’s when they realized that they needed a process for including outsiders and that’s where The School of Life & Impact came into play.

They made it so that all new aspiring members had to go through a three year educational and experiential learning camp known as The School of Life & Impact. Upon completion of the camp, aspiring members had to then go before a council of founders and wise members in a week-long ritual ceremony where the council collectively decides if the member is in alignment with the vision, mission and values of the community and are ready to be a contributing member. 

Twenty-five years ago the coalition started with a block and their own education. Now, we have a whole neighborhood and eight different SLI campuses across the country. It’s really beautiful.

What is The Akron School of Life & Impact (ASLI) like?

At ASLI, no one majors in anything but the thing they want to explore and the impact they want to make locally, but with a global mindset.  Classes are more so discussions and project-based and are either hosted in the community centers or right in people’s living rooms. The only mandatory classes are on improving learning skills, isms, cultural phobias, trauma, breathing, personal finance, sociology, history, interpersonal skills and self-expression. Beyond that, we aren’t forced to learn anything but instead have agency in our own learning so we end up being more confident and proud.

How does the school operate and sustain itself?

Everyone in the collective agrees to a personal income cap at $200k/yr. All additional income is invested back into research and development for the growth and expansion of the community. Anyone making less than $200k/year agrees to donate a small percentage of their monthly income. Also, the majority of profits from businesses started by those in the community go back into the community.

Tell us a little bit more about yourself, Ave, and what influence both the coalition and ASLI had on you. 

I was born in Akron but I got to spend a lot of time in different places across the country growing up, kind of like army brats but instead of visiting different military bases, my bases were different School of Life and Impact campuses. Akron was just more like homebase. It was very cool. Every campus had its own culture and unique impact based on its environment. 

There couldn’t have been a better way for me to grow up since I kind of like to be detached from fitting in and enjoy taking in a lot of information from my environment to try to make sense of it all in a way that’s productive.

The coalition helped and were very intentional about building my identity and work ethic at a young age. I was raised to have a strong sense of contributing to the family and community in a way that was true to me but also filled a gap. 

If you ask me to describe myself, I would say that I’m introverted but funny as hell. I’ve been described as brave and intense, which is quite contrary to what people think of as an introvert. I’m objective, insightful and very imaginative.

What do you most admire about your parents and the rest of the founding members?

The fact that they didn’t really care to get buy-in from outsiders nor did they care to do the ‘politically nice dance.’ They said that it took them a while to come to that point but the founders understood that if they had each other and a focus on the collective, that’s all they needed. I think it’s really swaggy that they knew to protect my generation from the future. I have so much respect for them and their prudence. People from all walks of life are craving something different and we have that.

You mention the word community a lot. What does the community look like?

It looks like love and healthy humanity in action. We play games, sing, dance and enjoy our free time together.  Families eat together, which is important. We have thriving farms that members of the collective maintain to sustain our community. On some level, we barter for goods and services and try the best we can to keep everything within the community.

Do you have friends who went the traditional educational route? If so, what do you think is different from their experience and the experience of The School of Life and Impact graduates?

We have a strong sense of dignity and worthiness, consideration and protection. We have a deep respect for ourselves and each other because we wholeheartedly embrace our differences. We want everyone to shine. It’s so beautiful. We all get to be bold artists and architects of our lives. If you shine, it makes it more natural for me to shine.

Also, nobody does celebrations like us!!! So much love and so much fun, so much!

What are you most proud of?

Two things. In our communities, there’s no such thing as poverty. That’s not even for the birds in the sky or the lilies of the field. There’s no sense of competition for resources. To us, poverty is the absence of family or community.  There’s collaboration to maximize resources. Nobody walks around like, “Am I tripping, or does this not make sense?”

The other thing that I’m particularly proud of is the execution of our yearly convention, which always has a turn up weekend. Planning for that turn up weekend launched the #1 music education program in the country. This is not your ordinary music education program. People learn how to launch the most robust and unique music festivals. People learn the engineering, science, and research side of creating music technology, including anything that requires electricity or batteries, coding the software programs, designing of stages and structures, working with the city’s civil engineering department, etc. This production is inclusive of all skillsets, from science and technology to the arts and humanities. Everything from people working on the festival participants’ experience, marketing the event, handling legalities, to the actual performers, artists and more. People learn so many transferable skills while creating experiences of a lifetime from scratch. 

No one has a major, but they have a desired impact to work toward… what was yours?

The question that I sought to answer is how might we better serve all of God’s creations, in all of their glory. I conceptualized and implemented experiments using technology to provide highly personalized growth plans for not only individuals but for our social and ecological environments as well. 

At a traditional university, this might look like majoring in human potentialization with specialties in computer programming, homeostasis, cooperative sustainability and electro-mechanical engineering.

Sweet! What’s next for you now that you’ve graduated?

Continue to work to protect the future generation. Stay tuned for what I mean.

Any final words that you would like to leave us with?

Akron is now a lighthouse for the marginalized, the underestimated and the under potentialized.  There are now other cities who have replicated our model and more and more people are dwelling in love. 

There are not enough words or ways to pay homage to my parents and the School of Life & Impact team. I simply leave you with, thank you, because the future ain’t what it used to be.
EbaNee Bond is a podcaster, facilitator, creative, elevator and champion of fairness. She’s from Mansfield, OH and has lived in Akron for 12 years. She can be reached at EbaNeeBond@gmail.com.

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