Alternative paths for kinesthetic learners & Mad Matt’s Mobile 


I’ve been a Steiner Ranch resident for almost 17 years and read the Four Points News every week. I am writing to you because I have what I believe is a great story about two young men from Steiner Ranch and our first-class local high school. 

As you may know, many kids are seeking alternative paths to college.  While many teens fall into the typical college-prep-readiness category of being able to learn through visual, auditory, and reading/writing methods, some – known as kinesthetic learners – do not. These students learn through doing.

Vandegrift High School offers its Incubator and Accelerator programs (“IAP”) for those seeking an alternative path. I don’t think many parents or kids know about this alternative educational program, but they should. As noted in a LinkedIn article “41 Big Ideas that will change our world in 2023”, #11 is “The school-to-work path will be turned on its head.”  Vandergrift’s IAP may make this a reality for local students. 

Our son, Nathaniel Proffitt, and his friend and fellow Incubator student, Matthew Smith, completed the Incubator and Accelerator program at Vandergrift. Through the school’s IAP,  they started Mad Matt’s Mobile, a mobile car detailing business, when they were just 17.  

The Vandergrift IAP program is about creating an actual product or service and bringing it to market. The kids create an LLC and learn and actually do marketing, accounting, and business operations. At the end of each school year, the IAP participants are judged by local residents and business experts. Many of the students’ businesses receive funding and assistance in developing their products or service. Throughout the IAP process, students collaborate with classmates, create websites, launch digital marketing campaigns with social media, and much more. The program, which requires active, hands-on participation at all levels, is a boon for kinesthetic learners like my son. 

After graduating from Vandegrift in May of 2022, Nathaniel and Matthew decided that instead of going to college, they would focus solely on growing and expanding Mad Matt’s. Over the last six months or so, they’ve gone from having just a few auto details a month to being booked far in advance. These two young men do everything, from soup to nuts: they file sales tax returns, create content and manage digital ad campaigns, research products, tools, and best practices, and answer sales calls…all in addition to doing the actual detailing. I’d venture to say that they’ve learned more in the last six months than many 18-year-olds learn in a few semesters at business school.  

What makes this story noteworthy is that there are many high school students who, for one reason or another, aren’t quite ready to commit to yet another four years (or more) of in-classroom learning. For those who head off to 4-year schools, many either don’t finish, incur crippling debt, or fall prey to the party culture. I think it’s essential that we, as a community, illuminate another path for our kids, whether that path is through entrepreneurship or the trades.

Charlie Little, principal of Vandergrift, is a repeat customer of Mad Matt’s Mobile and a huge supporter of the IAP.  Erin Mathis, the head of IAP at Vandergrift, deserves so much credit for teaching, guiding, and patiently listening to the students who learn differently. She has worked hard to make her IAP one of the best in Texas.  

Nathaniel elected IAP because I volunteered for many years as a mentor and team coach and encouraged him to give the program a shot.  

Too many of our kids feel anxiety, shame, and guilt after being told or made to feel like they’re not “college material” when in fact, maybe they’ve never been encouraged to explore other options.