Education is important, but… There is no but. It is important. It can also be difficult to get quality education while traveling the country racing motorcycles and ATVs.
Everyone wants their kid to be the next Walker Fowler or Kailub Russell. The reality is, even if you make it to the pro level, if you want real success, you’re going to need a good education.
That’s where Andrea Leib and On Track School come in. One of our own, who understands the crazy schedule and needs of the young amateur athlete.
GNCCRacing.com: Andrea, thanks so much for blocking out some time to talk today. I know you’ve got a very busy schedule. How are things going?
Andrea Leib: Thanks for having me. Things are going well; we are back from Mini O’s and enjoying a little break.
To dive right in, you started On Track School several years ago. How did that come about?
Yeah for sure, On Track School was a concept that developed out of need. Personally, in our family, we were driving out son, Michael, around racing everywhere. It became a situation where we had to develop a solution to pulling him out of school so often. We realized that when we’d bring Michael back to school he wasn’t really fitting in anymore. Teachers didn’t really understand racing the same way they do with traveling baseball or tennis. We ride motorcycles, right? It’s a difficult concept for people to understand that aren’t a part of the racing community. That’s the short version of why we started On Track School. We’re now at a point where we’re teaching 100’s and 100’s of kids.
How does the school work for the students enrolled?
Over the last 16 years, it’s changed and developed quite a bit. It started as me tutoring kids at the track. But as time went on, I realized, these kids need something more than that. It’s difficult for students to focus when they’re at the race track. The kids needed an actual program to work with. So over the last 16 years we’ve gone through two accreditation cycles. Cognia being one, which used to be AdvanceED. So there are many levels of support in the program. Things like intervention, which means if a student comes into our program and they’re not up to their grade-level we have the means to get them there. We have the infrastructure and tutors to ensure a student’s success. My goal is every student has the opportunity to be successful.
What makes On Track School unique compared to other home schooling options?
Excellent question! I think what sets us apart is having a community. The racing community really is an extended family. It’s not a cliché, when we say we’re family, we mean it. I’d say our culture at On Track School is custom-built for our racing family. At Loretta’s when we do our graduation, we have a dinner for everyone. At Mini O’s a couple weeks ago we held a dance for all the students called Disco in the Dirt. Honestly, parents included in that. Also we’re a private school, it’s more than a home schooling program. When a student is home schooled, they’ve got mom and dad. Which is great, they need that. But mom and dad are already doing so much for these kids, they wear so many hats. We take the teaching part off mom and dad’s hands. Even as an educator myself, I was not excited to become my daughter and my son’s teacher. So that’s our #1 priority is to be that teacher to each student and take that off mom and dad’s hands. That’s not to say mom and dad don’t have a role, it takes a village to accomplish these things. We call the parent’s the “Home Coach” it’s their responsibility to make sure these kids are getting 3-4 hours a day working on their education.
This seems to be very personal to you and the staff.
Oh yes, it is. I’ll take it a step further, when our students get to the high school level there isn’t one pathway to graduation. There could be two or three different pathways. A life skill, vocational, and a university pathway. We will build in and create internships through the apprenticeship program that MXSports graciously gave to us at Loretta’s last year. So we’re working toward creating life-long learners
Every mom and dad out there hope their kid is the next Walker Fowler, Ricky Carmichael or Kailub Russell. The reality is a very small percentage of the kids out there racing will reach that level. And even if they do, nothing in life is guaranteed. So education is extremely important regardless of a racing career.
Yeah, it’s interesting to look back and see how the conversation has changed regarding education over the years. For a long time there was this dirty little secret that several athletes at the professional level never graduated high school. The conversation used to be that education was Plan B. When in reality we all knew it was Plan A. Fast forward to now and I can tell you with great excitement that parents are coming to me now and expressing that the education is Plan A. I might add that, On Track School is not easy. We present a challenging curriculum. There are programs out there that encourage an hour a day and your child will be done. That’s not preparing your kid for college. That outlook is setting them up for failure.
Alright, what about you. You’re one of our own. How did you get involved in the racing community?
Oh wow, where do I even begin? My husband said, “Will you marry me and move to California?” that was in 1984. My husband always rode and raced motorcycles and of course read RacerX. Then we had a son and next thing you know; we get him the PW50. When my son started racing, my husband backed off from racing a bit. But he was still very involved in the industry. He had an ad agency that supported FMF, KTM, Pro Circuit, and Kawasaki. I’ve been going back to Loretta’s ever since our son, Michael, won there.
Any chance you get to some GNCC races this year?
Tasha (Renfro) has been going to Snowshoe and I hear that’s phenomenal. I was able to make it to the Beckley round in West Virginia last season. We would like to add more of those in this year. I love the people who race GNCC, it’s a family environment full of weekend warriors. My husband and I are moving back to the east coast soon, so we will try to hit some, for sure.
How does enrollment work for On Track School?
Enrollment is always open! Our website, ontrackschool.com, is the best place to get started. We’re actually working on a video that will go through all the steps of enrollment and how we work. That’s the place to get started!
You’ve got an Ambassador program as well. Tell us about that.
Oh yes! Students are eligible for this. It means they uphold a strong character both on and off the track. They have to be a good role model for the students enlisted in the school and maintain a B average or better. They also need to show some On Track School support. They also get to attend the Ambassador meetings. It focuses on developing kids into leaders. Some of the kids involved are Haiden Deegan, Thor Powell, Casey Cochran, Ryder DeFrancesco, and several other big names involved in the program. It’s a good way to mentor these kids and bring in some big names to talk to the kids as well about life. We have these webinars as well. We’ll bring in guys like Travis Pastrana, Aaron Plessinger, life coaches and many more. They’re really fun, to hear the stories and see how the kids apply it to their lives.
You’re also involved in Scholarship Race as well, correct?
Yes! Four years ago we went to the AMA and developed a program where student athletes can work town scholarships for college. It’s an amazing program. You can find out more by visiting scholarshiprace.com
Andrea, thank you so much for joining me today! Couple more things, who are some of the kids, now adults, that have graduated from On Track School? Also, is there anyone you’d like to personally thank?
Thank you so much for having me, this was a lot of fun. I want to thank RacerX, the Coombs family, Mini O’s for everything they did last month, and all the people who reach out and understand how important this education is for their children. Oh and you announcers! You guys do so much, and it’s greatly appreciated. Getting the word out about things like this mean the world to us. Now, those riders, it’s a lot!
Alumni (Just a few): Trey Canard, Blake Wharton, Michael Leib, Ashley Fiolek, Sara Price, Malcolm Stewart, Sean Hackley, Jalek Swoll, Nick Romano, Jeff Emig, Matthew LeBlanc and Jo Shimoda.
Current Students (Just a few): Ryder Difrancesco, Haiden Deegan, Casey Cochran, Thor Powell, Jordan Renfro, Cadan Braswell, Gauge Brown, Evan Ferry, Brighton Richards, Tiger Wood, and Ruby Fustini.