“Sometimes you’re going to have to sacrifice what makes you happy, to do what is right: Give up your normal ways for a little while to put yourself in a position so that you never have to give those things up again.”Nidhi Mehta, Celebree School of Exton
By Yitzi Weiner, Medium, Authority Magazine
Aspart of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nidhi Mehta.
Nidhi Mehta is a young entrepreneur following in her family’s footsteps, to fuse together her passion for business ownership and love for children and community. With her bachelor’s in business administration and currently pursuing a master’s in early childhood education, she’s driven to change the educational landscape in her new hometown of Exton, PA. As the owner-operator of Celebree School of Exton, she’s changing the way that children learn — Protect and Nurture first, to Educate.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Igrew up in a tight-knit community, in a suburban town, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My childhood was marked by the simple pleasures of small-town life, with friends that lived close by and events that always seemed to bring us closer together.
My mom, a Registered Dietician, instilled in me the value of perpetual learning and service to the community. My dad, a businessman, encouraged exploration and camaraderie. My grandmother, a professional at seemingly everything, guided my self-identity through empathy, generosity, wisdom, and cultural tradition.
I attended the local public schools and participated in extracurricular activities like tennis and dance. Family game nights were (and still are) a cherished tradition, and we often took trips to go visit family and explore abroad. Looking back, I feel fortunate for my upbringing which emphasized education and community. It played a big part in shaping my values and ultimately, my career choice.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Option B: This book reshaped my perspective in such a significant way that I decided I needed to tattoo it on my body (let’s just say I should’ve spent the same amount of time researching a good tattoo artist as I did reading the book). Anyway, the book explores resilience and coping with adversity.
I read this book at a time in my life when it seemed like everything was only happening to me and I felt trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of challenges. Until Sheryl Sandberg said “Option A is not available, so let’s just kick the sh** out of Option B. Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B.” That’s when I realized I wasn’t alone, there’s always an out, and we can live a fulfilling life if we learn to adapt a growth mindset.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To me, I look at the word “difference” in two parts — either the distinction between two things or mathematically, what is taken away. So, if I were to ask myself if I felt like I had made a difference, I would ask, did I either through my actions:
A. Enrich, contribute to, or positively impact the situation?
B. Take something away that will no longer negatively impact someone or something?
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
I think as a generation (Gen Z) we are committed to embracing our social responsibility, and part of that is creating accessibility to resources and destigmatizing the attitude towards mental health.
At Celebree School, Conscious Discipline is integrated into everything that we do, starting with management and ending with our children. Through this program, for example, children will learn to create meaningful interpersonal relationships & develop an understanding of an individual’s thoughts and emotions. Once we develop clear and empathetic communication, we begin to create harmony amongst communities.
When we think even bigger picture, we reduce conflict, we increase safety, and we contribute to economic prosperity. At Celebree School, we focus on the Whole Child, and introducing what some may consider “weighty subjects”, are really rich learning experiences that can have a profound impact as the child develops and grows.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Trauma has had a profound impact on several of my close friends and family members, leading to ongoing struggles with mental health into late adulthood. It genuinely makes me so happy knowing that through Conscious Discipline, our center will teach children take-aways & strategies for Emotional Regulation, Empathy and Connection, Conflict Resolution, Self-Awareness, Mindfulness, among several other essential life skills that will support them as they navigate the challenges of overcoming trauma, everyday setbacks, and growing into independent and self-reliant adults.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. We don’t always get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
I had only been working in our family business full-time for 3, maybe 4 months after graduating college. It was a fast-casual restaurant so you can imagine what my typical day looked like: placing orders, putting away truck deliveries, hiring, training, scheduling, handling customer complaints, fixing equipment, waiting for the equipment to break again so I could fix it again…
We live in a small town on the Eastern Shore of MD and the opportunities for personal growth (at my age) are far and few between. I quickly realized that the “push” to do better, be better, and work hard, that I had enjoyed and became accustomed to in college and living in the city, wasn’t going to follow me. I also knew that if I waited too long, there was a chance I could risk losing the drive that had taken 4 years to develop. That was the moment for me, when I accepted that I was struggling to find a sense of purpose, happiness and satisfaction in what I was doing.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
Build a board of mentors: Form relationships with trusted and well-accomplished professionals in their respective fields, regardless of the industry. Collective wisdom can sometimes be more valuable than concentrated guidance; these people will show you the way.
Set aside time to learn: Listen to podcasts, watch videos, or read about something that gets you excited about your project- this later becomes your pitch.
Go all-in: Once you have people to lean on and an end in mind, set manageable and achievable milestones. Celebrate the small wins and don’t stop until you do whatever it was that you intended to accomplish.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The fall after I had graduated; I had gone back to Towson to spend the weekend with my old college roommates. A friend of theirs, who I hadn’t met was also visiting, and she had a talent for reading tarot cards.
Psychic readings had always intrigued me, they were so mysterious and symbolic. But I had always been skeptical, as the lack of scientific evidence and personal interpretations made it hard for me to get behind.
But I’ve always embraced the opportunity to try new things, so I couldn’t pass up the offer. Keep in mind, both she and my roommates, at the time, didn’t know about Celebree School. Briefly, she told me that there were new opportunities and emotional fulfillment coming in my career and that I had a strong foundation of emotional understanding needed for mentorship (a role she believed I would be pursuing). I know what you’re thinking… confirmation bias. But I couldn’t help but think, was it really a coincidence?
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
When we were awarded a Celebree School license, we were told that it would be 2–3 years before our school would actualize. I naively thought to myself, how could it take THAT long?! In hindsight, now I know why it takes that long!
A project of this size and caliber has several moving parts that require patience, resilience, and perseverance to see it through. Coming up on year 2 and thinking about what it took to get here, I can’t help but laugh at my innocence.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I’m not exaggerating when I say I am beyond lucky to have and have had SO MANY people that coached me and advocated for my personal and professional success throughout my life.
It’s hard to pick just one, but the first people that come to mind are my parents. Moving to the U.S. from India in 1990, despite their prior schooling abroad, they took the first jobs they were offered in retail stores and pharmacies.
In due time, they were able to climb the metaphorical ladder; my mom moving on to pursue a career in Clinal Dietetics, and my dad opening the Video Land of Cambridge (a rip off Blockbuster, let’s be honest,) and eventually a motel, hotel, convenience store, and fast-casual restaurant as of recent. With challenges, also came opportunities, a testament to their determination and relentless work ethic. Their accomplishments, both independent and together, are a reminder that good things come to those who work for it.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I hope that this time next year I have a story I can share that makes all of this come full circle. But until we open, I can only strive to tell the community what it means to “Educate. Protect. Nurture” & “Grow People Big & Small,” before showing them. If, along the way, the Celebree School promise makes a difference in the lives of the teachers, families, and children in our care, that would be the icing on the cake!
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Quality Early Childhood Education can be challenging for several reasons:
- Retention/Turnover: Now, more than ever, an alarming number of educators have or are thinking about leaving the field earlier than they had planned. Implementing initiatives that prioritize and support the mental health and well-being of teaching professionals could alleviate the trends we are experiencing in the field.
- Accessibility: Economic uncertainty has left many family members unemployed or with stagnant wages, salaries that are unable to keep up with inflation. Providing financial support to private childcare providers through grants, subsidies, or tax incentives can help reduce the financial burden that childcare services pose on families.
- Personal Development: Again, the cost associated with enrolling in an advanced degree program, in addition to outstanding student loan debt and financial obligations, can be prohibitive to a teaching professional seeking graduate education. Advocating for more tuition assistance and loan forgiveness initiatives can incentivize teachers and promote top talent.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- Sometimes you’re going to have to sacrifice what makes you happy, to do what is right: Give up your normal ways for a little while to put yourself in a position so that you never have to give those things up again.
- Strategic silence: Speak up when it’s relevant, but there’s always more to learn from listening.
- The win will come, just after the loss: Don’t get discouraged, if you can’t be proactive, be purposeful.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable: Whether you’re the youngest in the room, the least accomplished among a crowd, or are still new to the process and don’t really know what’s going on, it’s an opportunity for growth.
- Stay liquid: Change is inevitable, if you’re resilient, you’ll adapt.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
It’s your world! If you’re passionate about something, find one thing that you can do (small or significant) to positively contribute to the collective effort. If you’re protecting what you love, you’ll realize how quickly it fills your cup.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 😊
I’m definitely not in my Taylor Swift era nor am I a Swiftie, but I can’t deny her versatility, consistent success, influence, authenticity, and ability to reinvent herself time & time again. These are important characteristics to have as a talented entrepreneur and businesswoman, regardless of industry, and I’m crossing my fingers that Travis Kelce comes with.
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram and Facebook: @CelebreeSchoolofExton
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
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