Calling all Innovators and Early AdoptersEnrolling Founding Families now for August 2024!

Family Photo

Our Story

Our passion for alternative education started in Austin, Texas at a magical nature based preschool. Inspired by Montessori and Waldorf principles, this mixed aged preschool was the perfect introduction to non-traditional learning styles. We loved watching our two boys find joy in meaningful work such as caring for the on campus chickens, helping prepare snacks or folding laundry. They thrived spending most of their time outside, learning from the older students and growing as leaders by helping younger friends.

When it was time to move on from preschool we had the great privilege of attending Acton Academy West Austin and seeing a truly learner-driven model in action. Our boys loved going to school each day and took great pride in having ownership over their progress in core skills such as reading, writing, and math. They enjoyed working on group projects and creating the culture and ethos of their studios by crafting their own studio rules and holding each other accountable.

While we cherished our time and community at Acton West dearly, the mountains and our family called us back to Utah. Here in Park City, amidst the beauty of nature, we've found our true home — embracing every moment of hiking, biking, and skiing. We firmly believe that Acton Academy provides the ideal environment for supporting our children in finding their calling, changing the world, and living happy and fulfilling lives. So, here we are, starting our own Hero’s journey at Acton Academy Park City. We can’t wait for you to join us!

Our Team

  • Chelsea Headshot

    Chelsea Paresi, PhD

    Co-Founder & Head of School

    Chelsea's journey to Acton Academy Park City has been defined by her passion for learning and her commitment to making a difference in people's lives. While her academic pursuits in chemistry at Westminster College and her subsequent PhD from Weill Cornell’s Graduate School of Medical Science laid the foundation for her scientific career, she’s excited to dive into the world of education on this next great adventure. Throughout her career, Chelsea has worked in various biomedical laboratories, focusing on early drug design and understanding resistance to targeted cancer therapies. Most recently she has worked as a private healthcare consultant, translating complex medical findings into understandable insights for patients facing serious health challenges, empowering her clients with a sense of autonomy and control. Her professional achievements have not only equipped her with the skills necessary for guiding young heroes, but have also instilled in her a deep-seated passion for exploration and discovery. Beyond her professional endeavors, Chelsea finds immense joy in her role as a mother to her two boys. She cherishes every moment spent with her kids, relishing in the opportunity to watch them grow and learn. Her personal passions include yoga, delicious food and getting lost in a good book. As she looks ahead to her new role at Acton Academy Park City, Chelsea is excited to extend her passion for learning to a new generation of heroes. She believes in the importance of guiding young minds to discover their unique talents and interests from an early age, fostering a lifelong love for learning and exploration.

  • Tom Paresi Headshot

    Tom Paresi


    In a journey that led Tom from the structured halls of an all-boys Catholic high school to the innovative classrooms of Westminster College, his educational path has been anything but conventional. As a co-founder of Acton Academy Park City, he brings a unique blend of experiences—from pursuing a business degree at NYU to embracing the great outdoors with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). These experiences shaped his appreciation for project-based, intimate learning environments, profoundly influencing his educational philosophy. Tom’s initial experience guiding others was as a Physics TA at Westminster University, where, fatefully, he met his future wife. This time at Westminster laid the groundwork for their shared vision of education. After earning a BS in Biology and an MBA with a focus in Entrepreneurship from Westminster, Tom ventured into entrepreneurship with Cow Harbor CrossFit. After successfully selling that business, he transitioned into the tech world, honing skills in software development and product management. These experiences, layered with a deep-seated passion for education, have culminated in the founding of Acton Academy Park City. Beyond his professional endeavors, Tom’s life is filled with adventure and family—CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and outdoor adventures with his two sons and their dog, Gracie. Acton Academy Park City is a reflection of this journey—an embodiment of the belief that education should be limitless and deeply personal. Together with his wife, Tom is dedicated to creating a learning haven that celebrates individuality, nurtures curiosity, and prepares young learners to answer their call to adventure and change the world.

Our Mission

We believe each person who enters Acton Academy will find a calling that changes the world.

Acton Academy's Founders

  • Jeff Sandefer Headshot

    Jeff Sandefer

    Jeff Sandefer lives a dual life as an entrepreneur and a Socratic Guide. As an entrepreneur, he founded his first company at age 16 and went on to found or co-found seven successful businesses. As a Socratic teacher at the University of Texas, Jeff’s students five times voted him the school’s Outstanding Teacher and Businessweek named him one of the top Entrepreneurship professors in America. Jeff went on to co-found the Acton School of Business, an MBA program perennially ranked by the Princeton Review among the best in the nation. In 2012 The Economist honored him as one of the top fifteen Business School professors in the world. Jeff is a graduate of the Harvard Business School, where he served for over twenty years on the school’s governing committees. He was a longtime director of the Philanthropy Roundtable and National Review magazine and one of the youngest members ever elected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame.

  • Laura Sandefer Headshot

    Laura Sandefer

    Laura lived on both US coasts and in between as a child, then settled into Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Science. After being awarded the highly competitive Walter Wattles Fellowship at Lloyd’s of London, Laura worked in the aviation insurance industry in New York City. Deciding to follow her calling into the world of education, Laura returned to Nashville and earned her Master of Education at Peabody College. This led her to her work at the Oklahoma Arts Institute, creating fine arts education programs for teachers and talented high school students. Laura married Jeff Sandefer and is the happy mother of Sam and Charlie and step-mother to Taite. It is the inspiration of these children that led Laura and Jeff to co-found Acton Academy. Her greatest hero is her mother who was a Master Teacher. Her wisest mentor is her father who sent her off to college with two words of advice: "Be curious."

We believe in a closely connected family of lifelong learners.

Our Promises

We promise through Socratic guiding and experiential learning to encourage each member of our community to:

  • Begin a Hero’s Journey

  • Discover precious gifts and a commitment to mastery

  • Become a curious, independent, life-long learner

  • Embrace the forging of a strong character

  • Cherish the arts, the physical world, and the mysteries of life

  • Treasure economic, political, and religious freedom