Empowered Minds Academy

An Acton Academy


Agotime Adefunmi, Discovery/ES Studio Guide

While in high school, I took a trip to Adventure Playground; that experience would change my views about how children learn. What I observed was experiential play – which included frameworks that allowed children to take their own calculated risks to build, construct and articulate their own vision with resources provided.

That passion carried me through community college to UNCG where there were more resources than I could’ve imagined. During this time, my two passions, entrepreneurship and experiential education, took root.  I helped to develop a social entrepreneurship venture, The Goal Program, which sought to affect high rates of attrition at the community college level by helping students set short and long term goals. Outside of class I collaborated on mobile applications during The Greensboro Hackathon, and was a finalist in the 2 Minutes to Win It Business Pitch Competition, which led to internships, product development, and exploration of 3-D Printing.  My appetite for learning was insatiable, and I wanted to latch on to any opportunities for exploration I could get my hands on to.

When I learned about Empowered Minds Academy a spark was ignited as I explored the ways in which Panthers LEARN TO LEARN, LEARN TO BE, and LEARN TO DO.  These are my favorite aspects of the model. I enjoy that Panthers and Guides are encouraged at every step to be learners for life using a Growth Mindset.  The model incorporates creativity, problem solving, and reflection which connects to all my passions. I’ve found that there is so much more to learn and I am grateful for this experience.

Arssante Malone, Journey/MS Studio Guide

Native to Washington, D.C., my immersion into a myriad of arts, cultures, and ethnicities from an early age led me to begin my journey in pursuit of knowledge of self.  This life long journey has allowed me to lecture at universities in the Middle East, work as a school leader on the coast of Zanzibar in Africa, share my content knowledge as an English teacher with scholars in the states, and form a nonprofit with the intent on providing marginalized youth extra-curricular socio-emotional support through martial arts training.  

In addition to being the Executive Director of BAD Budokai Inc., I work as a Youth Program Advocate for Durham Children’s Initiative in the capacity of advocating on behalf of African American families in Durham by developing research-based interventions and programs as well as assisting in identifying opportunities of personal and professional growth for each member of the family. 

To EMA, I bring my love of knowledge, my concern for my community, and my vision for our future.  Although I’ve taught in public schools, charter schools, private schools, and even international schools, I believe a learner-driven model best suits our innate thirst for self-improvement and the life-lasting journey of being an intentional learner. 

Aside from my work, I’m an avid reader, a highly-critical movie watcher, and martial arts mentor.  As a husband and father of five beautiful Black children, I’m intentional about building a community and safe spaces for the holistic development of the Black community and I see EMA as the beacon of light our children should use to assist them in discovering their life’s purpose.  It is my honor to share space and hold community with your scholars.

Valine Zeigler, Head of School/Founder and Spark Studio Guide

As a mother of three, my husband Eric and I, have always been deeply concerned about the state of American education and specifically the future happiness and well-being of our children.  We wanted our children to feel safe, supported, and be wholly seen.

Before homeschooling, I was a Language Arts Teacher within the Los Angeles Unified School District for 7 years;  I enjoyed serving as department chair, literacy coach, mentor teacher, and earned National Board Certification – a voluntary and rigorous certification process for showcasing excellence in education.

We began homeschooling when our oldest daughter was born in 2002. Fast forward ahead, two more children and 13 years later, other courageous families joined us. In response to the gentle nudging of a visionary friend, Empowered Minds Academy was founded Fall of 2016.


While homeschooling (actually around 2014), I began to follow Acton Academy, a learner-driven community out of Austin, Texas.  Like Acton, in my household, there was an intentional focus on hand-on learning, unstructured play, and project-based work. In the mornings, we started our days off with self-paced and self-led reading, writing, and math challenges that were placed in bins and completed throughout the morning. The afternoons were play-based and project-based.  Acton Academy and their learner-driven model, mission, and philosophy resonated with me powerfully. Like Acton, I too believe in equipping my children to master and manage themselves and their own learning.

I am passionate about sharing the learner-driven model with you, and as the founder of an Acton Academy Affiliate that centers Black learners and their families, I am even more excited!  For me personally, expressing this belief – “We believe that by un/dis-covering, reclaiming, and reconnecting with our truth will we better understand who we were, who we are, and who we must be.” – has been one the most affirming and life-changing experiences.

If you're ready to reinvent education for your family, you're invited you to...


Empowered Minds Academy: An Acton Academy Affiliate ©️ 2021

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