A letter from the desk of Zen Benefiel:

In Lakesh, (Mayan - "I am another you.")

No doubt you 'Googled' me or something of the sort to get here. I hope you'll find some of my dreams of future works worth consideration. I have a strong passion for excellence in education and social architecture. I was adopted by a young couple at 6 weeks old, an educator and tool and die maker who was also a Master Mason. My adoptive parents were absolutely wonderful people who offered me encouragement for academic, physical and spiritual growth, a true gift in my young life. My adoption precipitated a life full of love and natural ponderings and has offered much to reflect on over the years through a spectrum of feelings and thoughts, quite mystical at times as you might imagine.

My life has been nothing short of magical as I've searched for truth and harmony in human relations because of the nurturing environment I learned as a child. I am grateful for the opportunity of this great discovery process because it imbued my life with wonders beyond description. I am fortunate indeed and quite humbled by the it all. It's led me to not only follow in both parents' footsteps, becoming both an educator and machinist, but also to engage a ministry beyond buildings or bodies gathered for worship while developing practical and proactive ways to engage life in the modern community - one of the superorganism, ideas and a pecking order.

My desire has been and still is to serve life, finding purpose with courage and spiritual foundations that honor all things. I wanted to help offer what many never have the chance to experience, a nurturing environment that addresses deep dysfunctional patterns where necessary and transforms those within it. I want to offer that leadership development model as a village for at-risk youth that can be self-sufficient in a very short time: Spectrum Academy. Products and services are many, the most important being challenged youth converted to community conscious citizenry. A peer community oversees the operations, the formation of which is the initial challenge to establish a working constituency. The process is goal driven with clear objectives, designed with the help of a coach well equipped to challenge the residents to be better every day.

This particular work took several years to develop, but the plan came together within a short time. At the risk of skepticism, it began with a vision during a mental rehearsal for a conference speaking engagement in the fall of 2000. As I completed the presentation in my head, my attention was drawn to a woman who was walking toward me from the audience. She had an attractive figure and voluminous curly hair, yet I could not see her face. She spoke to me in a clear and direct way. "Are you ready to get to work?" were her only words. Without hesitation, I closed my notes and thrust them under my arm, extended the other arm for her to grasp and replied, "Let's go!" I met her in person a couple of months later. I realize including this paragraph might encourage speculation of sanity. I'll take the risk to be authentic. The proof is in the heart of the reader.

Our passion was already aligned with the concepts of creating a 'new living awareness' community as evidenced by sharing our previous writings. She continues to be a great inspiration for me and has helped me focus on doing the work necessary to articulate and promote Our Vision.

After receiving an MBA in 1997 and while in Secondary Education Certification from the University of Phoenix, my thoughts were to apply what I know of the real world (see resume) to help make practical connections with high school education for the students.  I had learned some valuable skills that I found lacking in America's work force and hoped I could make a difference in the lives of our future citizens. I am a grandfather with challenged children and grandchildren as well. I felt my life experiences and triumphs over trials and tribulations might inspire a few.  I wanted to offer considerations and communication necessary for being successful in life.

Turns out Business openings are rare so I began my career in the Exceptional Student Program in the Phoenix Union District, special education freshman English and Life Skills, and taught math and science in a self-contained modular my second year. I then was given full charge of the high school curriculum for a new charter school location, including developing multiple-intelligence learning centers. The next year I partnered with Robin in yet another charter high school curriculum development, being hired just two weeks prior to school starting and given minimal materials. I didn't fit well, concerned with discipline and respect, so Robin remained while I went on to a residential treatment center charter school for the 2nd semester to complete my short teaching career.

Robin taught elementary and middle school several years before we joined forces in the high school environment. As a result, we enrolled in the Master of Arts in Organizational Management at UoP and develop a plan for a model environment, a synergy of components designed to empower at-risk populations. Spectrum Academy is the result of our research and synergistic systems approach. We would like to share those results, as the existing environments serving this population are heavily burdened by a multitude of constraints. The business plan contains the foundations for changing our educational systems as well, something we sorely need today.

Spectrum Academy is a community concept born from a passion to serve our world in the most poignant possible way. We were both educators and saw a growing need to address challenged youth differently, one that administrations weren't ready to address. As I grew up, the issues of abandonment were nonetheless present in my consciousness, which is the greatest fear of these youth. Those feelings led me to explore the depths of spirituality, which was supposed to reveal the connectedness we have with all things. I found that indigenous beliefs around the world begin with accepting all our relatives as part of our lives, from the Earth and all her creations to Great Spirit - the Father/Mother of Creation. These youth did not have that luxury, yet the rites of passage are just as important for developmental stages.

I found that science revealed the same reality through quantum physics, the scientific revelation that all things are connected and that our thoughts essentially create our reality. I learned that our reality is much deeper than simply managing our emotions. There is a fabric, a tapestry of consciousness and natural order we're just beginning to discover. Applying these understandings in a world that too often focuses on exterior complications rather than seeking to resolve the inner conflicts that cause us to be afraid, angry, ignorant, and immobile is of tantamount importance in the 21st Century. People can come together and change the course of history, just as Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela have shown. Humble men and women have been silently working to achieve change for some time, toward a holistic system that manages resources wisely.

It appears that creating effective emotional education for our children has been absent from the academic curriculums' primary functions. As an adult I find that most people fear conflict and will do just about anything to avoid confrontation on most issues, creating a nation and world of unhappy people showing up as depression, divorce, and deprivation in lower economic populations. It does not stop there. According to some recent statistics, over half the population of the United States is either on or have been on anti-depressants. The imbalance even appears in many adults who either self-medicate or are on prescription anti-depressants, which seems to make it easier to drug students into compliance rather than address the reasons we feel we have to do so. Now close to the end of our first decade in the new millennium we are facing even greater challenges.

Gen-21, as they are being called now, rejects the corporate-structured world their forefathers created. The latter lives in ignorance to the fact and still thinks stock options are a worthy enticement. Eco-sensitive youth find the experience abhorrent. Spiritual responsibility would indicate that we need to change our methodologies in education in order to restore the interconnectedness of life on Earth. We are in need of holistic programs that offer the choice to reconnect our youth with the basic communication and critical thinking skills, while offering the same to adults who are recognizing this need as well. As a child, I knew the love and nurturing of good parents even though I knew I started as an orphan. I have witnessed children and youth who have not had this basic and fundamental need to love and be loved. We can restore our ability to fulfill these needs for our youth who have become wards of the court, clients of our mental health systems, and recipients of our social service systems.

The brilliance of Spectrum Academy's plan is only surpassed by the people who actually come together to facilitate the proliferation of these environments across the United States and around the world. I have found that my life's experience has been deepened by the spiritual path I've undertaken while restoring faith, hope, and trust. This seems to be a standard experience in all spiritual paths. I can only imagine what the effect of a collaborative alliance that stretches around the globe could do for our future citizens and leaders. Diversity is the spice of life and gives us opportunity to grow in understanding beyond our current comprehension. Our society tends to shy away from diversity even though our business and political leaders recognize its value. The challenge to change is extreme in some cases.

We need a way to change the system so that everyone wins. Our industrial and technological advances have catapulted our global society into a fast-paced and dollar-driven world. We've neglected to bring everyone along to share in the wealth and instead have created unprecedented emotional rips in the families we once held so dear. We can change this pattern in just a few short years, IF we apply what we now know about emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual development. A few people can begin to bring awareness of these solutions to those who can help facilitate the work to accomplish programs such as Spectrum Academy.

The unique selling point of this particular community model is a sustainability feature, which brings less dependence on foundations, grants, or other outside capital sources. It literally makes so much sense that the dollars are sure to follow. We have questioned and studied great leaders and collected their intelligence in order to bring a new product to market that serves a great need in society...habilitating our displaced youth. I hope that you can also see the benefit of our work, pass it on to others or get involved yourself. It is rare that passion and purpose can unite, providing the opportunity to experience joy and happiness while engaging the most difficult work of our time. I have found gratitude and humility beyond anything I could have ever imagined as this creation has developed. I trust that as you read or have read through the material on this website that you have found it to be based in common sense, evoking a certain "YES" feeling for the potential results. Thank you for your valuable attention and time.

Namast, (Brahmi - "I worship that which is within you.")

Rev. Zen Benefiel
MBA, MAOM, CHt, Business/Personal Coach, Educator

Rev. Zen Benefiel is a multi-degreed author, coach, consultant and facilitator with a passion for education and facilitating partnerships. He founded Be The Dream, LLC in 1988 as an avenue to promote holistic understanding in business and personal achievement, now operating as a coaching and consulting company (www.BeTheDream-LifeCoach.com). An international presenter on holistic project planning, he has co-created a vision for a holistic model community serving at-risk youth, called Spectrum Academy. His most recent coursework, Transformation: A Guide for Change, assists adults challenged to live authentically by providing coursework to shift paradigms.