Originally published in The Reporter – June 11, 2019
Many people can seemingly sum up their lifetimes in two distinct eras: before the internet and after the internet.
However, as Jim Young, the keynote speaker at California Virtual Academies’ (CAVA) graduation ceremonies Tuesday at Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre, there was no “before the internet” for these graduating seniors. They have lived in a time when the World Wide Web has been the dominant medium for nearly everything, so they were ones who could easily adapt to taking most or all of their classes online.
On Tuesday, they got to celebrate a successful course of study under this model.
CAVA is a network of publicly funded charter K-12 schools throughout the state that offers courses taught online by accredited teachers. Mina Arnold, CAVA’s high school director, told The Reporter that the first high school graduation was held in 2007. This year, there are approximately 854 students graduating from CAVA throughout the state, 53 of whom graduated early at the end of their junior years.
The three ceremonies held in Vacaville were among seven CAVA graduations held throughout the state, and roughly 60 students graduated in the first ceremony alone, all coming in from Sonoma, San Joaquin, Sutter and other nearby counties.
DeAnn Meyers, the Campus 1 high school principal, said that some graduates had been enrolled in CAVA since kindergarten, while the vast majority had begun taking classes between third and eighth grade and others had started some time in high school.
“We are happy you have entrusted all or any of your education to us,” she said.
Meyers told the graduating class that they had developed vital skills as virtual students, chief among them being independence.
“You did not have a counterpart sitting across from you to tell you when to turn pages,” she said. “You did not have a bell schedule to tell you when to move to the next class. You organized your own work, you stayed focused in spite of distractions.”
Meyers also said that students have learned to be “mastered the tips and tricks of today’s technology” and become proficient in programs like Microsoft Word and Excel, Power Point, Google Docs and Firefox.
“You’re among the few high schoolers who can clear cookies instead of just eating them,” she joked.
With the skills they have learned, Meyers said graduates had a bright future.
“You’re ready to take on the world,” she said.
The keynote speaker was Young, a Sacramento attorney who frequently represents schools in cases and successfully argued before the California Supreme Court in 2012 on behalf of charter schools. He graduated from a public high school in 1983 with a class of just 24 students in a Northern California town that had a little more than 2,000 residents. Young told the graduating class what it was like growing up in what he called an “analog world,” describing to students how different phones, TVs, video games, researching and listening to music were.
“For computers, most of us had none,” he said. “I had one friend who had a father who had an Apple computer, and that was all the rage. There were no widely available home computers, no real internet access. Can you imagine that?”
To the Class of 2019, Young said he was “a technological caveman.”
Young acknowledged that “with all the amazing advances in technology and the world’s complete and utter reliance upon it, there has clearly been a tectonic shift, a sea change in how we all think, create, communicate and connect with each other on a daily basis.”
“Technology has rewired us,” he said.
However, he cautioned students about being overly reliant on technology.
“Beware to consciously use technology and not let it use you,” he said. “Don’t become so wired in that you become a person who has truly checked out, unable to truly connect with others in the world. Make mindful decisions to make meaningful connections with others. I guarantee you will love longer and be happier.”
Ryan Nepstad, a Sacramento resident and CAVA Sutter student since third grade, delivered the valedictorian speech. He commented on the effort students put in to reach the finish line.
“Regardless of all the hard work we’ve endured to get here, we did it,” he said. “We have finished high school. Now is the time to transition to college.”
As CAVA graduates were presented their diplomas, each student’s post-high school plans were noted by the administrators. They will be attending two and four-year colleges throughout California and across the country in schools in New York, Utah and Hawaii. Some students planned to join the workforce, others planned on going to school to become flight attendants, computer programmers and even stunt doubles.
Arnold told The Reporter that administrators were proud to provide an educational model that met students’ individual needs as young as kindergarten.
“It’s really exciting to have watched them mature with us and watch them get their diploma today,” she said.
To learn more about California Virtual Academy, visit https://cava.k12.com/