Meera Kharbanda, Marissa Goldenstein and Kendra Azure
Meera Kharbanda, Marissa Goldenstein and Kendra Azure are the co-founders of InWonder Academy, a private elementary school in San Clemente that just opened this fall.

Trio of Chapman Alumnae Found New School to Nurture Tomorrow’s Changemakers

Marissa (Bredice) Goldenstein ’13 was pursuing an MBA at UCLA when  she had a breakthrough about her future. 

“I realized that my passions for business were merging with my parenting journey,” says Goldenstein, who graduated from Chapman with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and also has a master’s degree from San Diego State. “That led me to a real passion for education and supporting parents.”

Goldenstein met with former classmates Meera Kharbanda ’13 and  Kendra (Klinchuch) Azure ’13 over dinner. Kharbanda holds a Ed.D. from USC and Azure earned an MEd at Antioch University. Their discussion about their shared passion for education led the three Chapman alumnae in an unexpected new direction: the foundation of a new private elementary school committed to nurturing tomorrow’s changemakers. 

InWonder Academy opened this fall in San Clemente, Calif. “We are designing a school that nurtures and empowers growing changemakers,” says Goldenstein. “We have a family partnership that bridges the home to school so parents can feel as involved as they would like to be in their child’s learning journey.”

The co-founders are building on their backgrounds as parents, educators and business leaders, along with the connection that they established while at Chapman. They consider the school a living laboratory where they can put ideas into implementation, and they look forward to both the challenges and the opportunity to grow with their community and students. 

Right now, the school serves only kindergarten-aged children, but will enroll students up to 2nd grade next year, with plans to expand through the 6th grade soon. “In the next five years I hope to be expanding our school to higher grades like middle school and maybe even high school,” says Godenstein. “In 10 years, I hope to be working with other schools to take our current learnings out into the world of education and parenting. In 20 years, I hope to write a book and travel all over speaking and helping support education on a larger level.”

We asked Goldenstein about her time at Chapman, and how it is helping to inspire her current journey. 

Who was the most influential person for you at Chapman and why?

Dr. Steven Schandler. He invited me to be his laboratory manager. He mentored me in such an incredible and supportive way. I learned so much from him about so many things, including myself and just life in general. 

If you could go back in time and experience one moment again at Chapman, what would it be? Would you do anything differently?

If I could go back to Chapman, I would revisit my last year. I would take more time to just enjoy the environment and be present and mindful in my relationships. 

What do you wish you knew at the time you graduated that you know now? What advice can you give to students or new grads of today?

My advice today is to find presence and mindfulness every day. Learning at Chapman is such a special time and it is filled with opportunities. Seek joy and passion. Find what gets you really excited and follow it. Don’t be afraid to explore and get out there!

How did Chapman prepare you for your career? For life? How did your experience at Chapman prepare you for the real world?

Chapman was the perfect place to cultivate my creative energy and passion. I felt supported here to be who I was. 

How has your perspective changed about global societal issues as you have matured? Have you changed your beliefs or values over time? Have your opinions changed over time? (please give an example)

I used to take a backseat in global societal issues – they felt too big for my opinions to fit in. I had opinions, but I kept them quiet. Now, I am much more aware of issues and I have big ideas about them and how to help. I always commit to bringing an open mind. Adam Grant’s book “Think Again” really helped solidify the value of bringing an open mind to these hard conversations. I now enjoy and get excited about engaging in challenging issues. It’s great practice for positive communication and open-mindfulness. 

Do you have any other words of wisdom for students and new grads of Chapman University?

Enjoy your learning journey! It flies by. The world outside of school is great, too, but it’s different. This is the perfect time to explore and fail and learn. Be kind to yourself and accept who you are as quickly as you can. There is no time in this world to be anyone or anything but exactly who you are!

Staci Dumoski

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