Jen Fordyce '98
Projects and Internships Facilitator
Kihei Charter School
After graduating from Goucher with a major in English and concentrations in writing and women’s studies Jen Fordyce ’98 initially worked for nonprofits that supported social justice issues such as LGBTQ rights, child welfare, and civic education. But when her job began to resemble office work rather than activism, she yearned for more direct contact with people and changed her course.
She earned a master’s in teaching secondary English from Brown University and then taught for four years at a charter high school in Providence, Rhode Island. “A lot of my professional development has been around helping kids who struggle,” Fordyce says. “At some point or another, every student needs extra help.”
In 2010, she accepted a job at Kihei Charter School and moved to Hawaii. As a projects and internships facilitator, she helps 260 high school students discover and pursue their passions. Guiding students as they identify goals and ways to achieve them is a creative pursuit, she says.
“There is a lot of research and academics involved. But because I don’t have a curriculum, the learning is all project-based and interest-based: I help students build skills as they engage in topics that they really care about,” she says.
Although she didn’t initially plan to stay permanently in Hawaii, the longer she stays, the harder it is to leave, she says.
Fordyce, an accomplished kayaker before moving to Hawaii, now competes in both short- and long-distance races as part of a six-person crew that uses outrigger canoes, slim, colorful vessels that are paramount to Polynesian history. Racing the vessels continues to be a cultural tradition as well as the official state sport.
“Moving somewhere and participating in the indigenous culture in an authentic way—just learning—has been a pretty incredible experience,” Fordyce says.
She lives with her partner and his son in a house nestled in a lush green valley, bordered by a trickling river. She says she has found a new balance in work and play: “Back East, people brag about how hard they’ve been working and how exhausted they are. If you’re working yourself to death and you don’t have balance and you’re not enjoying life—that’s not a well-regarded state here.”