Our Founder: Cara Thorpe
Coach. Student. Teacher. Visionary. Mom. Cara Thorpe lives her life’s purpose daily and sees how each step of her journey has guided her to pursue her unique passions and gifts to serve others. The gratitude for this opportunity continuously fuels her work. Cara’s personal and professional experiences and research in education, spanning over 30 years, equip her with the ability to meet students, parents, and teachers where they are and offer insight and inspiration, along with space for reflection and growth, in pursuing their unique gifts and contributions.
Cara first discovered her passion for teaching as a teen-aged swim coach for the summer swim team that had filled her childhood. Aspiring to offer her swimmers the same love and support her coaches had given her, Cara spent hours in her role as a Water Safety Instructor studying how to break each stroke into small, achievable movements. Personalizing her lessons to draw on the strengths and natural tendencies of her students came naturally to her, and the Yellow Parachute tutor’s title as “Learning Coach” refers to this philosophy of drawing on a student’s strengths and interests to assist in further growth.
Cara sought a small undergraduate college with both strong academic and athletic programming and found this combination at Grinnell College, in Iowa. Grinnell’s liberal arts education encouraged her to seek knowledge and enjoy learning for learning’s sake, rather than simply to obtain a grade. Cara brings her experiences in building her own learning path and balancing athletics and rigorous academics to her work with YP Learning Coaches and college-bound students and their parents.
Cara continues her work as a student of learning, bringing her research on effective teaching and learning, resilience, habit building, the power of vulnerability, grit, and gratitude to develop her team of Learning Coaches and lift students, parents, and teachers in personal and professional growth.
Cara followed her passion for teaching to the University of Minnesota’s top-ranked teaching program, then to the Edina school system. As she sought to support struggling students through the power of individual attention, relationship building, and student/teacher conferencing, she drew on those early lessons in the pool. She realized that by watching students closely–that is, attending deeply to how they felt, what they said, and how they processed information–she could gain insight into how students learned, and tailor her lessons to fit their particular styles and interests. She learned the power of patience, listening, constant innovation, and a focus on process rather than product.
What are the possibilities? While Cara loved the classroom setting, she realized that her own unique strengths lay in individualized instruction, where she could devote 100% of her energy to working with and innovating for the voice of each wildly brilliant and original child who sat in front of her. In an effort to expand her own impact, Cara founded Yellow Parachute in 1999, recruiting the most talented educators and relationship-builders in the field to serve alongside her. The YP team meets regularly via virtual interface to collaborate and refine our personalized learning practices – teaching students how to learn – building pathways of success for college and choice-ready individuals. Cara believes that all individuals should be given the opportunity to find their unique abilities and passions to serve their communities…and change the world.
“Mum” is a reference to Cara’s parents’ Canadian upbringing. Though she grew up on the East Coast, much of Cara’s familial influences were shaped by her parents’ Midwestern Canadian values and combined experiences in both the US and Canada.
In addition to pouring into other parents’ kids, Cara pours into her own. Her most demanding and most rewarding title is “Mum.” Cara understands the complexity and intensity of the parent/child relationship and the adage, “You’re only as happy as your saddest child.” Cara uses her experiences in teaching and parenting to help moderate the parent/child relationship, meet the needs of unique learners and their families, provide practical and applicable tools, and breathe healing and new life into the family relationship. Cara believes that relationship and connection build resilience and foster growth; she desires that not only her own kiddos but every individual would understand two things: “You are never alone,” and “You can do hard things.”