When David Prosper was a public school student in Florida, he often felt lost and out of place.
The traditional educational model — where teachers lecture students who must later recall information during standardized tests — didn’t seem to work for him.
After graduating from high school in Fort Lauderdale, Prosper attended St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and said it was there he first realized just how far behind his peers he was.
“I would give it all I had and still come up short,” he said. “So I realized I wasn’t on the same playing field and I started thinking, ‘Is college really the thing for me?’”
Instead of giving up, Prosper began searching for tools to help him learn more efficiently. He started listening to educational podcasts, one of which inspired him to attend a conference discussing the ways in which people are taught.
“It revolutionized the way I learned, and taught me that we learn by association,” Prosper said. “And it brought me on this journey of, ‘How can I learn more about how to learn?’”
After uncovering the methods that work best for his learning style, the 28-year-old is now considerably more confident. He gives lectures about leadership, and was featured in a TEDx talk in Colorado Springs in September.
Prosper, who launched a career in sales after college, first worked with the Milwaukee Bucks NBA Franchise and later a national media company. He moved to Colorado Springs with his wife and two boys in 2018, and now has his sights set on a vastly different career: He wants to keep kids from feeling lost in the shuffle, as he once did.
In 2019, Prosper founded Shepherd Revolution — a faith-based, youth education organization that aims to transform communities across the country by first transforming its young people into effective leaders.
The organization is still in the process of designing its curriculum, but by 2023, its goal is to open a K-12 private school called Shepherd Revolution Leadership Academy in Colorado Springs.
Prosper is planning to debut the curriculum at an inaugural Youth Leadership Summer camp, using tuition fees from the camp to help fund the academy.
The camp is tentatively planned for June or July, depending on venue availability, and is for kids ages 11 to 14.
Once it’s established, Prosper said, he’ll seek to expand to other states.
“Colorado Springs will be the hub,” he said. “And then the goal would essentially be to train and develop other leaders to run the camps in their cities. So the camp will [be a] pilot of creating that community.”
Prosper recently sat down with the Business Journal to talk about Shepherd Revolution and how its educational model might benefit kids in Colorado Springs.
How did you come up with Shepherd Revolution?
I was reading the Bible and I saw this word pop out: “Shepherd.”
It was talking about Jesus and how he was a good shepherd so I was like, ‘OK, what does this word mean?’ Well, shepherd means to lead and to guide. And the word ‘revolution’ oftentimes has a negative connotation to it, like to revolt, but … it also means to shift a paradigm. And in the word revolution, love is spelled backwards. And I truly believe the foundation of everything is that we were created from love, for love, with love.
So if we love on our students, what could that do for them? I truly believe that once we give the space to the students, to the youth, we can see who they can become.
What made you want to transition from sales to education?
My son asked me the other day: ‘Were you smart when you were a kid?’ And I was like, ‘It wasn’t that I wasn’t smart, it was the fact that I wasn’t taught how to learn.’ So as I became an adult, that led me to this journey of, ‘How can I learn? And how can I learn fast?’ And now I’m able to recall certain things much faster than in my youth. And if I had that struggle … I know a lot of students do. So [Shepherd Revolution] is about shifting how we teach, but most importantly, seeing potential and working that potential out. Because when I was a kid I was considered unintelligent or dumb or whatever, all those labels. And I embraced it like, ‘OK, then I’m just going to be a villain. I’m just gonna be a bad kid.’ But I had so much potential.
How might these programs benefit kids?
Instead of developing students to be bystanders who watch things happen, we’re creating leaders who are taking action. Because the easiest thing to do is to react. The second easiest thing to do is to respond. And the hardest thing to do is to take initiative. So developing, fostering and nurturing leaders who will take initiative makes our city a better place, our homes a better place, our government a better place, and ultimately, our world a better place. So that’s been the vision. It starts with our youth and investing in them so we can create that ripple effect that outlasts all of us.
Describe the curriculum you’re designing.
It’s a proactive approach; it’s a style of learning where students sit in a circle, they’re making eye contact and they’re connecting. And it’s shifting how the classroom is led. So typically it’s a teacher leading the classroom. Well, we’re shifting it and allowing the teachers to be facilitators, and now the students are leading the classroom. So instead of just retaining the information, they’re experiencing it and have to teach it as well. And we’ll also be developing our program with the students and one of my program directors out in Tampa, Florida. She’ll be coming on board and helping us with the curriculum. Essentially, we’re going to have math, science and all those things which are important, but leadership will be the DNA.
What makes this model different and effective?
When we create an experience for the students, they recall the lessons, because they feel like they’re a part of it. … I truly believe that we learn when we’re having experiences, and it becomes fun. Education becomes fun. So this is exciting because we’re learning, we’re growing and we’re developing. And that’s what I see is missing.
Talk about the faith component and why you feel it’s important for teaching kids leadership.
There’s a book called Lead Like Jesus and the pastor in California, Rick Warren, talks about how Jesus has 2.1 billion followers. That’s more than any leader on social media right now. And I thought about it and why does he have all these followers? What made him a great leader? Well, he constantly talked about the heart. So the faith component is a heart check. It’s to have a standard or measuring stick of: ‘This is my moral compass and this is what I strive to be.’ It’s a heart change. And that’s why I truly believe that we can lead from a place of love instead of a place of fear. Because when God heals our heart, we come from that place. That’s why I believe that the faith component is the best component of leadership. Because God heals our heart, and when he heals our hearts then we can heal others as well.
What are your ultimate goals for the company?
To transform education and transform how we learn. And not just build better leaders, but develop better leaders. That is the short-term goal, but the long-term vision is that we’re going to be constantly pursuing healthier relationships. If we can have healthy relationships in our homes, it’ll trickle down into our communities; it’ll trickle down to our education; it’ll trickle down to our governments. So it’s developing leaders who will transform their lives and the lives of the people around them.