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Graduates Forge Their Own Path
Jon Kolman, 19,
Graduated: Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Next Up: Working full-time on his startup companies
Bucking the Trend
Kolman made his first splash in the business world at age 16 when he created an app that made it possible for older versions of the iPhone to use Siri, an interactive voice system that’s featured on the iPhone 4S and subsequent models.
After posting the app for $10 a download on an online store called Fibia, he said, he went on to make a profit of about $80,000 in one summer.
Though GlideWithUs is still in a testing phase, Kolman’s second start-up, FlockWithMe, has already taken off.
Since Kolman has devoted so much time to these fledgling businesses, he said, it seemed natural to break from tradition and pursue them full-time after high school.
“I really like building stuff that people use,” Kolman explained. “I think Glide has the potential to connect people who would never have been able to meet.”
Kolman said that while his family and friends weren’t always supportive of his decision not to go to college, they have slowly come around as he continued to garner success.
“I’m learning through doing, which I think is the best way to learn,” Kolman said. “Instead of going to college and learning how to write a business plan, I’m running an actual company and learning what investors care about — how to build a sustainable business around my vision, which you can only learn through experience.”
Hannah Feldman, 21, Philadelphia
Graduated: University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies
Next Up: Volunteer and study abroad programs
Patriotic PursuitsHannah Feldman has a three-year plan that she hopes will culminate in joining the U.S. Navy. Along the way, she’s aiming to organize stops in an AmeriCorps program and a religious studies seminary in Israel.
“I value structure,” Feldman said, noting that this is a large part of why she’s attracted to the Navy.
Though she intends the Navy to be her final destination, Feldman first wants to apply to AmeriCorps, with the goal of volunteering for something like Habitat for Humanity. That experience, she said, will allow her to travel to new places outside of Philadelphia, where she has lived for almost her entire life, while still being surrounded by a structured environment.
After hitting on the idea of AmeriCorps, Feldman decided to add a year in Israel to her itinerary.
“I didn’t grow up in a Zionist family and Israel was never super-important to me in terms of my Judaism,” Feldman said, so this will provide an opportunity to explore her spirituality and beliefs.
Feldman said her parents have generally approved of her three-part plan — though her mother worries that she’ll end up wanting to stay in Israel.
“Yeah, go, but please come back,” her mom, Ellen Chapman, said. “I have concerns, but not in her ability to make decisions and figure out who she is and what she wants to do.”
The Navy hopeful already experienced a period of independence and challenge during college when she traveled abroad to Kyrgyzstan, a small, predominantly Islamic country in Central Asia.
“It was similar to any study abroad experience — you learn some things, travel,” Feldman said.
While in Kyrgyzstan, Feldman connected with the local Chabad center, which she credits for motivating her to become more active with Jewish life when she returned to the University of Pennsylvania campus.
As for her desire to join the Navy, Feldman said, she surprised herself as much as anyone.
“Honestly, I don’t even remember what flipped that switch, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense for me,” Feldman said, adding that the Navy will also be a chance to foster her burgeoning sense of patriotism.
“I believe that there are civic responsibilities that we all have as citizens,” Feldman said. “I don’t believe that joining the armed forces is a requirement, but it’s something that I think is meaningful and will be good for me.”
Tamara Cohen, 42, Mount Airy
Next Up: Director of Innovations at Moving Traditions
Off to Innovate
Tamara Cohen, a 2014 Reconstructionist Rabbinical College graduate, is on a mission to effect change in the Jewish world.
Nick Renner, 28,
Next Up: Assistant rabbi at Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
When Nick Renner heads out West to become the assistant rabbi for Kehillat Israel, he will bring a special skill beyond the spiritual guidance he learned to impart at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College — rock ‘n’ roll guitar playing.