Today we’d like to introduce you to Caroline and Jerry Jones.
Caroline and Jerry, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When it was time to enter the job market, after staying home to raise our three children, I decided to become a teacher of French. Most of my ensuing 19-year career was at El Camino Real High School, Woodland Hills. Almost as soon as I began teaching, I realized the value of taking students outside the country, and in my case, to France. Over my time as a teacher, I organized and took 28 groups of high-schoolers for short trips to France. We had a farmhouse in the beautiful rolling green hills three hours west of Paris, in the Mayenne department, and this was our base for the trips. Eight years ago, we bought a large nearby Presbytery (formerly the home of the village priest), where we were able to house our students more comfortably. I noticed students gaining confidence, becoming more enthusiastic about learning the language, responding to group responsibilities, and maturing in front of my eyes, as a result of this brief travel opportunity.
How much more, therefore, would they benefit from a longer stay and a stay that included formal education? In June 2018, I retired from my job in school, and have embarked on an exciting journey. A journey about which I feel passionate. A journey which uses all the gifts with which I’ve been blessed. A journey into the unknown. My husband, Jerry Jones, has now retired from formal ministry, teaching history and religion, after 40 years. He is the visionary in our relationship. I’m the one who helps to put his ideas into practice. It’s a good combination. 18 months ago, Jerry discovered a former convent school for sale about 16 miles from the Presbytery. I have to say that when I first visited the property, one cold December day, I did not share his enthusiasm. However, it soon became apparent that the potential for developing this property was enormous. Here we could house dozens of students for longer periods of time, and really impact their learning and growth. Education at it’s finest: formal classes enriched by visits to relevant local sites. This school is in range of so many rich destinations, like the D Day landing beaches, the chateaux of the Loire Valley, Roman sites, medieval castles and so much more. We have now had two small summer school programs, and are poised to expand.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It seems to me that nothing in life worth having comes without effort and struggle. We are just “ordinary folk”, so financing this project is a challenge. The property, which was built in 1731, needs renovation, some quite serious, but much is just re-decoration. We are just two people, so the job seemed overwhelming. In just one year, however, we have exceeded all our goals for progress on the buildings. This has been achieved by an outpouring of help from many sources. Friends (from the US, UK, France), family, former colleagues, former students, the local community have actually come to give us physical help. Some have come for a day, some have stayed two weeks, one of our sons came for three months. The struggles of getting the work done are not over, but the burden has been lightened by this help and support from near and far.
Live and Learn – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We specialize in educational travel for high school and college students. We also offer specialist retreats and programs for adults: cooking, yoga, painting/drawing, hiking, antiquing, etc. We have two small companies: *Live and Learn, Inc, which recruits US high school, college students, and adults to enjoy its secular programs. The programs are taught in English, and the high school courses offer credit through UCSD. Income from this company helps us to provide opportunities for deserving students of lower-income families to be included on our trips. *Elite Education is a non-profit 501 (3) c through which we can accept tax-free donations to fund our Christ-centered classes. We are proud of the unique experiences we offer. They are truly life-changing, as our Southern Californian young people expand their horizons in a safe, and sheltered environment in rural France. Our hands-on approach to education, with our fun and creative zest for learning, sets us apart.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
If I had to start over, we would have researched and invested in better publicity about what we do. We would have looked for good advice from experts in publicity and marketing.
- 3 week summer school programs fo3 week programs for high schoolers and college age start at $4700
- Adult special interest programs for one week start at $1500
- Website: https://summerschoolfrance.com/
- Phone: 818 522 2661
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/studyabroadFrance/
- Other: https://www.facebook.com/La-Maison-de-Perrine-311971629543706/
Aroline Jones; Olivier Hédin; Kimberly Messadieh