March 18, 2016
When Brenden Santos, 10, was tasked with a creative writing assignment from his literature teacher, April Gamble, he set to work writing right away. About a week later, Brenden had written and illustrated his first book, “Brenden Writes: Friendships,” an underwater adventure about caring and friendship between Kate the crab and Sammy the shark.
“We’ve always known Brenden had something special,” said Diana Santos, Brenden’s mother. “I think the North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA) was right up his alley and it’s really helped him to flourish.”
Since his first book, Brenden has written another children’s book, “Brenden Writes: Don’t Bully Me,” and is currently working on his third book. When asked why he wrote the books, Brenden replied, “I hope to inspire everyone to be a writer.”
But Brenden wasn’t always excelling in school. Back in Brooklyn, NY, where the family is originally from, Brenden’s class size swelled to well beyond the 25:1 legal student-teacher ratio, said Santos.
“Brooklyn wasn’t beneficial for him,” she said. “Those poor kids were just getting lost in the system. We literally packed our clothes and left our furniture behind one weekend.”
After a few happy years in a local public school in Raleigh, N.C., Brenden started coming home and complaining to his parents about bullying at school and how one of his friends got stabbed in the hand with a pencil. One day, Brenden came home and told his parents that an older child hit him in the face and, Santos said, the school never reprimanded the other child. Santos began to fervently look for other schooling options.
Every year, over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying and 25 percent of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying, according to the National Education Association’s website. There is a strong correlation between bullying and poor performance at school, higher levels of anxiety and even depression, according to StopBullying.Gov, a collaborative anti-bullying effort from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.
Brenden was not performing at the level Santos knew her youngest child could and she was not happy with how the public school was handling the bullying situation. Discovering NCVA, an online public school providing a free option to parents looking for alternatives to the traditional schooling experience, was like a light at the end of a dark tunnel.
“It’s an amazing experience,” said Santos. “It’s like having a front row seat to your child’s education.”
Today, Brenden loves his school and especially that his father is able to be his physical education teacher. He is excelling in his coursework with straight As and is very excited to attend NCVA again next year and most of all feels safe.
“First of all, there’s no bullying,” explained Brenden, “and if there is any bullying—even if it’s in a private chat—the teacher instantly notices and the student doesn’t do it again.”