Education / Youth

This Wilmington teen wrote a book to help high schoolers hack education

Rising senior Deborah Olatunji says she wrote "Unleashing Your Innovative Genius: High School Redesigned" to change students' mindsets about success.

Deborah Olatunji in a video promoting her book. (Screenshot via YouTube)
Full disclosure: Delaware reporter Holly Quinn was interviewed for "Unleashing Your Innovative Genius: High School Redesigned."
Who would best know how to adjust the education system for students? Try an actual high schooler.

Deborah Olatunji, a 17-year-old rising senior at Charter School of Wilmington, is releasing a book in December all about “hacking” innovation in high school. “Unleashing Your Innovative Genius: High School Redesigned” is a three-part advice book on the best ways to inspire creativity and jumpstart learning, all with the hope of education reform.

Part one of the 200-page book, “How to conquer the classroom,” covers why Olatunji believes the U.S. needs education reform. Part two, “Retrain your mind,” discusses reframing the way we look at education and educators, and part three, “How to utilize the outside world,” encourages hands-on learning and extracurriculars.

“If I were given one thing to change in American high schools, it would be project-based learning and the way we approach experience in schools,” Olatunji said, echoing the mentality of the Dual School program she’s participated in. “For example, if you’re taking a class like AP Government, it’s a lot different to write a bill than to read about bills.”

Olatunji first approached her publisher, New Degree Press (founded by Georgetown University professor Eric Koester), last June about writing but didn’t get a deal until October. She began writing in January of 2019, but ended up restructuring her idea in March and working on an even tighter deadline — all as a junior in high school.

(Koester also published a book by Olatunji’s older sister and occasional guest poster, Miracle Olatunji, in June, and Deborah’s twin sister is columnist Dorcas Olatunji.)

The content is a combination of memoir-style advice, interviews with students as well as references to famous speakers and writers. Olatunju said it’s about balance: striving for success while not getting hung up on grades, and character-building versus content-building.

Outside of her own school life, Olatunji is a board member of youth-led education nonprofit GripTape, an aspiring medical missionary and the founder of the Student Leadership Initiative Program. After graduation, she hopes to attend the University of Pennsylvania as a nursing major with a minor in public health or English.

And, spoiler alert, she wants to write another book and tour to local high schools to speak about her education philosophy.

Though the book is aimed at high schoolers, Olatunji said she hopes the ideas can also resonate with teachers, parents, policymakers and anyone passionate about the education system.

“I think high school authors are incredible because we’re going against time and a deadline to chose where we’re going to be for the next four years, while also trying to share an empowered message with the world,” Olatunji said.

Preorder the book here.


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