Our mission is to help students prepare for fulfilling futures by enabling a self-directed mindset through projects, mentorship, and workshops. We provide the optimal conditions for our students to become auto-DIDA-ctic (self-taught, without formal schooling).

Our Program

Program Overview

Dida is a creatively free community for teens. We help students connect their interests to learning experiences. With the guidance of mentors, students map their own goals and create passion projects to gain academic, career, and life skills. We serve as an alternative to traditional school for teens seeking a meaningful education, leveraging homeschooling laws to allow maximum flexibility and customization for the middle and high school years. We work with the whole family (students and parents) as a team to set quarterly learning goals and co-create personalized roadmaps, definitions of success, and accountability systems.

Our Core Values

  1. Trust and Respect

  2. Challenge and Achievement

  3. Lifelong Learning

  4. Empathy and Relationships

  5. Fun and Enjoyment

Our Approach

Self-Directed Education

Everyday at Dida, we make decisions based on the question:  "How can we help students become more self-directed?"

We believe that self-directed education is the ultimate goal; teen students grow up to become young adults who can carry responsibility and manage themselves in their own way. Why? Because in a few years, they will need to. In a country where democracy and freedom are so fundamental to our culture, it is crucial that young people are able to navigate their chosen paths with success. Self-Directed Education is not a teaching technique, but rather a habit that is reinforced over time.

Project-Based Learning and Design Thinking

At Dida Academy we believe in developing design thinking mindsets so that students are able to create meaningful projects throughout their life for work and self.

Step 1: Empathize

Step 2: Define

Step 3: Ideate

Step 4:  Prototype

Step 5: Test

Our Team

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Danielle Levine

Co-Founder and Executive Director


I have been working with young people for over 10 years in many roles including: learning facilitator, tutor, suspension hearing advocate, camp counselor, mental health group therapy counselor, and dance instructor. I also have experience in nonprofit management, educational programming, advocacy, and startups. My work has centered on promoting the right to self-determination for vulnerable and marginalized populations, with a focus on children, teenagers, and persons with mental illness and physical disability. I currently serve on the board of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. I hold a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Rochester.

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Miles Wickham

Lead Facilitator


I bring a firsthand understanding of personalized education to Dida Academy from my experience with self-chosen structured classes and years of self-directed learning. My work has focused on the development of self-agency for underprivileged young artists and children on the autism spectrum through teaching artist positions and tutorial videos on my popular YouTube channel (15,000 subscribers). I have 5 years of acting training at Manhattan Edge Studio with Diaan Ainslee, and 10 years of martial arts training from Yushinkan. I lived in Naples, Italy as a child, where I became fluent in Italian language and culture. I moved to New York City at age 10 and attended middle and high school in Brooklyn, where I gained firsthand experience of the bureaucratic, impersonal system of public schooling. With discipline cultivated through martial arts and meditation practices, I am excited to share my insights of persistence and pushing through self-perceived limitations.

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William Schmidt

Founder and Learning Director


My ultimate life goal is to inspire learners of all ages through play-based exploration and improvisational games. As a former school teacher, I believe in the capabilities of young people to effect societal change.

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Will Chen

Strategy Director


My specialty is helping students become innovators of tomorrow through principles of entrepreneurship and design thinking. My mentees and students created many of their own successful ventures and had a lot of fun doing it. I previously worked as a 9th grade math instructor and as a project manager in healthcare technology.