What I — and 120,000 Other Students — Already Know about Online School

By: Alexandria Cooper

Unlike many of my peers who navigated online learning for the first time this past spring, I recently graduated from online public high school that I attended for four years.

When someone first learns that I attended public school at home, they initially assume either 1. I haven’t attended “real” school; 2. I won’t be able to hold a conversation, or 3. I don’t have any friends. These common misconceptions couldn’t be further from my experience, and that of tens of thousands of other kids across the country. In fact, I’m a regular teenager who got a public high school education that in a lot of ways isn’t that different from the “typical” high schooler’s experience — it’s just took place mostly on my computer.

There are more things than I can count that I have loved about my high school experience, but I’ll break down four reasons why online school was the right choice for me, and for more than 120,000 others each school year.

1. Getting a Quality Public School Education

Education has always been a priority in my family. My public online high school offers a rigorous curriculum, and my classes were taught by actual teachers. At the beginning of the school year, my school sent me everything I need for my classes, including books, supplies and materials — they even provided the laptops when I started online school in third grade. In my live virtual classes I could ask my teacher questions, speak up during class discussions, and privately message my teacher if I wasn’t comfortable asking the question in front of the entire class.

Like a traditional high school setting, I was expected to attend class, participate in discussions, write papers, turn in my homework on time, complete projects, and take tests. The biggest difference at WIVA is that I could do this anywhere with an internet connection. Even in light of COVID-19, when my neighbors’ schools were closed, my online classes continued, as did the high expectations my teachers always had for me.

2. Discovering New Experiences as a Family

My parents are in a rock band called Skillet, and they perform all over the world. When I was younger my parents didn’t want to leave me at home when touring, so my mom homeschooled me as we travelled the globe. As I got older, it became difficult for her to keep up with putting together a challenging curriculum for me and my brother, so we enrolled at Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA).

WIVA offered me the opportunity to get a high school diploma, while staying together as a family. Wisconsin is our home base, but we also traveled all over the world while keeping school our number one priority. I’ve already traveled to more than 20 countries (France and Belarus being my favorites). One day I hope to become an author and experiencing so many different cultures firsthand has provided me with inspiration for my writing. Attending high school in a traditional setting wouldn’t have allowed for these opportunities to travel the world with my family.

3. Making Community Connections

While attending online high school, my social life didn’t miss a beat. Through my school I participated in clubs, volunteered, and virtually hung out or played online games with friends. I was a member of the National Honor Society (NHS) and my junior year I was the NHS Secretary. I also volunteered with my school’s peer-to-peer mentoring program, where I helped tutor and mentor other students.

I also made time to participate in activities outside of school. I volunteered at my church and helped in a Tinkergarten class last year, teaching young children about nature with fun outdoor activities! When I wasn’t traveling with my family, I hung out with my friends at local basketball games or other events in our community.

4. Develop Life Skills

In September I’ll begin a nine-month intensive program to study music theory and Biblical theology at Living Light School of Worship through Living Light Church. After taking this gap year, I plan to pursue a degree in child psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside next fall.

As many students across the country have realized these past few months, attending school online isn’t easy. Just like college and the working world, to succeed in online school takes a lot of self-motivation, independence and maturity. I’m confident that I’m prepared to take on my next chapters in life because of the valuable life skills I developed at WIVA.

Like most high school seniors, I had hoped to be walking across a stage at my graduation to receive my diploma in a cap and gown, celebrating with my classmates, family and friends. While my graduation day wasn’t what I initially envisioned when I started high school four years ago, I couldn’t be more grateful for the four years of high school I experienced at WIVA. I’m ready for whatever comes next, and I believe the entire Class of 2020 is too.

Alexandria Cooper graduated high school from Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA) in June 2020

To learn more about Wisconsin Virtual Academy, visit https://wiva.k12.com/.

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