Originally published in The Fayetteville Observer – June 27, 2018
Scholastic aptitude was never a problem for Hope Mills’ Tyler Milton. He’s a shrewd thinker, a bright young man.
But the classroom wasn’t always conducive to his learning.
“I used to sit in the back and not challenge myself,” Milton says.
“He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder early in elementary school, so he always struggled a bit in a large classroom because there was so much going on and he just had difficulty honing in on what the teacher was saying versus what the person next to him was saying,” Milton’s mom, Jennifer, says.
She enrolled her son in the North Carolina Virtual Academy as a 10th grader in 2015, as soon as the online charter school was approved as a four-year pilot program.
NCVA is one of two online charter schools in the state, along with N.C. Connections Academy. Both are based in Durham, and both enroll about 2,000 students across the state each year.
Milton excelled in the flexibility of NCVA, earning valedictorian honors with the highest average in his class.
He’s also taking online classes from Fayetteville Technical Community College, and by the time the fall semester is finished, he’ll have earned his associate degree, tuition free.
Milton also earned the North Carolina Scholarship for Children of War Time Veterans, which will pay for his tuition at Charlotte. His father, Anthony, is a U.S. Air Force veteran.
Milton plans to complete his master’s degree, probably in computer science, maybe with a minor in theatre.
“I’ve gained a lot of confidence in myself and my academic abilities,” he says.
The curriculum was taught online, with Jennifer Milton acting as learning coach, and standardized tests were given in Durham.
Jennifer was able to make sure that Tyler stayed on task, over time stepping back more and more, allowing him to gain independence and focus on his own.
“The NCVA needs parental involvement and I think it made a closer relationship between us but it also made me more involved in his school, it made me invested too,” Jennifer says.
She’d changed school districts and turned to online private classes to help Tyler find the right fit.
“I was not content to let him fail,” she says. “We just looked for better ways to help him succeed.
“I always wanted him to work to the top of his ability.”
North Carolina’s online charter schools are struggling with academic growth and student withdrawals. They’re not for everyone. But the virtual academy has worked out well for Tyler.
“I would recommend people with severe ADD or ADHD or things that impair their learning ability, I would recommend that they go to these kinds of schools because it can help them succeed,” he says.
“The support that I was given from the teachers and my parents was invaluable. It was priceless.”