Helping Kids Achieve Their Dreams While Still in School
For students who set their goals high—such as Olympic hopefuls and other elite athletes, professional actors, and competitive dancers—attending a traditional school is challenging, and often means putting their dreams on hold. That’s why parents who want to encourage their kids to pursue their passions have turned to online school in increasing numbers. With online or virtual school, students can work toward achieving their dreams without delay while simultaneously getting a great education!
In fact, as the 2018 Winter Olympics thrills audiences worldwide, Connections Academy families and staff are celebrating even more, because four graduates of California Connections Academy are competitive figure skaters on Team USA: Mirai Nagasu, Karen Chen, Vincent Zhou, and Nathan Chen.
Although the 2018 competition is still under way, Mirai Nagasu has already made history by becoming the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics! Her performance helped Team USA secure a bronze medal in the team figure skating competition.
How Competitive Student Athletes Benefit from Online School
“Many athletes attend the virtual schools we support because they can complete their coursework around their strict training and competition schedules,” explains Connections Academy president Dr. Steven Guttentag. Using an award-winning curriculum, a student can prepare for college, career, and life after their competitive years are over.
For example, Vincent Zhou maintained straight As while rising through the figure skating rankings, in part due to the flexibility to work ahead or spend additional time on materials. At age 16, he made history by becoming the youngest Senior Men medalist at nationals. Vincent also won second place at the 2017 national championships and was the first junior in history to land a quadruple jump. And off the ice, he earned recognition for academic accomplishments as a 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program Commended Student and receiving a Presidential Award for Educational Excellence.
The other alumni Olympians are just as accomplished. Nathan Chen became the youngest U.S. man to medal at an ISU Grand Prix competition He’s this year’s men’s figure skating national champion, upholding his first-place title from last year. He’s also the first figure skater in the world to land five quadruple jumps in a single program. And Karen Chen (no relation) became the national champion in 2017 and earned herself a spot on Team USA by finishing third place at this year’s nationals—all while battling the flu. (To learn more about Mirai Nigasu, see her story below.)
“Flexibility is the advantage most cited of Connections Academy,” said Guttentag. “Not only can the curriculum be accessed so long as the student has an internet connection, but also students can complete their schoolwork on their own time. Our teachers and staff pride themselves on working together with busy students to complete their education.”
In between hours of daily training, ambitious online school students can receive the education they need in a flexible manner, which gives them the ability to dedicate long, uninterrupted hours to perfecting their skills on the ice, the tennis court, the theater stage, or other competitive field.
With their teachers and lessons available anywhere there’s connectivity, students in online school also have the ability to travel for competitions, special performances, speaking engagements, special training, and other events, all without falling behind in schoolwork.
Mirai’s Online School Experience
Mirai Nagasu began figure skating when she was five years old. She kept at it, compiling an impressive list of accomplishments as she honed her skill and artistry, but 2009 was her pivotal year. After winning and having become the second youngest in history to win the U.S. Senior Ladies’ figure skating title the previous year, not only did she change her coach, but also she transferred to California Connections Academy.
“[Attending Connections Academy] allowed me to follow my extensive training schedule without the stress of missing so many school days.” Mirai explained. “The online learning system let me take ‘school’ with me all over the world, and I could choose when and where to do my schoolwork.”
After representing the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics and placing fourth, Mirai went on to win a gold medal at the 2010 World Championships and a silver at the 2011 Grand Prix Cup of China. But later, she was disappointed to be excluded from the Winter Olympics team in 2014. After this setback, Mirai even considered giving up skating. But ultimately she decided to use it as motivation—and has bounced back as an even stronger competitor.
Mirai’s name means “future” in Japanese, and after her history-making triple axel—a jump with three and a half rotations, and the only one with a forward-facing takeoff—hers certainly looks bright! As the third woman ever to land the triple axel at the Olympics and the first American woman to do so, she’s sure to be remembered. Mirai acknowledged her accomplishment on Twitter, saying “Today was the best day ever … still on cloud nine.”
Flexibility for Other Pursuits
While online school is excellent for student athletes, parents have made the switch to this learning method to give their children the freedom to pursue a wide variety of other passions, too! While there may be some online class sessions at set times, students have the ability to set their own schedule for completing lessons and assignments, as long as they meet deadlines, stay in touch with teachers, and are on track for completing the school year on time.
Those who pursue the performing arts, such as dancers, actors, and musicians, have used the more flexible schedule to travel for special lessons and training, to arrange their agendas around competitions, to take time off for auditions, and to attend appointments with coaches and trainers. Actors, in particular, can do schoolwork on the set between “takes.”
Connections Academy and International Connections Academy students compete in chess, rodeo, dressage, car racing, and more. They write fiction and publish nonfiction and opinion pieces on popular websites. Other students have started their own businesses, taken college courses, traveled, participated in politics, or become more involved in scouting or 4-H.
Texas Connections Academy @ Houston student Gemma Weir uses her flexible schedule to run Fluffy Love, a nonprofit organization she launched when she was just nine years old. Now in high school, Gemma collects and donates new stuffed animals to children who could use a cuddly companion, such as those in the hospital or in shelters.
“Community service has always been a big part of my life,” Gemma says. “I can get ahead on schoolwork a few days a week, then focus on Fluffy Love. I’ve really learned the importance of time management!” The organization’s success has also helped Gemma learn valuable skills like public speaking.
When it comes to supporting children’s dreams, Heather, Gemma’s mom, has one simple but powerful piece of advice for parents: encourage ideas. “Parents should always get behind their kids,” Heather says. “It can help them find what [their kids] love and [help them] flourish.”
School years shouldn’t put your child’s dreams on hold! You can support your student in pursuing his or her passion while still ensuring a great education for the future. Making the switch to online learning isn’t for every family, but for students who have big goals and the drive to pursue them, online school can be a major advantage.
How do you encourage your child to work toward his or her goals? Share your success stories in the comments!