There is no typical day at VLACS because we aren't your typical school! A student may take a quiz 30,000 feet in the air while traveling across the country for a sports competition. Another student may start their day at noon by shadowing a pastry chef.
Every student's journey at VLACS is different. Still, one thing they all have in common is that when they come to our virtual school, they can customize their education to their personal learning style, explore their interests, and pursue quality career pathways.
Read on to hear the tale of four students taking different paths towards one common goal - to be who they want to be.
"I'm Kai Dennett. I want to be an industrial designer and artist."
Kai was a full-time student at VLACS who graduated in 2020 at 16. "I took my first VLACS class freshman year," he shared. "I started taking classes at the community college, getting involved in experiences-based courses, and doing internships.
Nel, Kai's mother, shared, "It was neat to see how many different ways you can really finish high school these days."
Kai added, "VLACS focuses less on learning for a test and more learning for life and learning for the learner's sake. I think that really applies well to a collegiate, academic, and real-world environment. That's a lot of the reason why I felt comfortable going into college-level courses at a young age and being able to reach out and kind of make these opportunities for myself because they taught me how to do it - it's bigger than anything I could have gotten involved with where I live.
Kai expressed, "Switching to online allowed me to not only speed up my pace but also to invest in the things I'm very interested in, which are art and design. I'll be going to school at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for Industrial Design. I plan on picking up a double major in a fine arts program too."
While at VLACS, Kai was able to take an opportunity to pursue his passion through VLACS' Experiences, which allows students to create an experience that meets the same standards they would need to meet in a traditional course.
Kai was interested in networking and pursuing communications, so he teamed up with a University of New Hampshire Professor who formerly worked for the New York Times and The Boston Globe.
"During my experience," Kai excitedly shared, "I was able to get the professor's feedback, which I think was extremely helpful in developing my own writing. It also gave me a lot more in-depth knowledge in marketing, which is one of the areas that I am interested in. That was really inspiring, and it solidified where I want to go with my life. I wanted to be able to experience art and design and wanted to progress my career faster. VLACS helped me do that."
Kai and his mother Nel shared their gratitude by focusing on VLACS' ability to personalize Kai's learning experience.
Kai explained, "I'm really grateful for the flexibility it VLACS gave me in terms of deciding where I wanted to take my own path. When I switched over to VLACS, I was able to decide how much time I wanted to give to a class a day, how I wanted to structure my time, and I thought not only learning those skills was extremely valuable, but it also gave me time to learn how to do these skills well. I had time to go and pursue other interests, which I plan to invest and learn more about in the future as I go to college and hopefully make a career out of them."
Nel added from a parent's perspective, "He was able to learn the things he wanted to learn at the pace he wanted to learn them. He didn't have to wait for the rest of the class to catch up. He also learned how to plan out his day and figure out how he was going to tackle his coursework. I think VLACS really gave him a lot of skills that he's going to need, not just through college but also the rest of his life. Rather than someone giving him a set plan and just following along, he mapped his own journey. As a result, we have a much happier teenager, and who doesn't want that?"
In terms of his schedule, Kai explained, "I was able to schedule doing classes every day… I'm a pretty early riser, so I found it fairly easy to just get up, make myself tea, get to work right away, and then do that for a couple of hours. I'm a very analytical person at times. And so, I was able to just write out exactly how many assignments I needed to do every day to graduate when I wanted. And I could work backward with that. Then I'd be able to go off and do an internship, or I painted a mural, and just kind of do these different things. I knew how much time I needed for certain things, and I knew to plan ahead. So, it made it so much easier."
"I'm Erik Hanser. I want to be a major league baseball player."
Erik Hanser was a student at VLACS who appreciated the flexibility the school afforded him for baseball, which he calls his main career path.
Erik said, "With VLACS, it's just like college. It's your responsibility, and that's one of the most important things, as well as the flexibility."
Candace, Erik's mother, added, "It VLACS opened up doors for him to meet with his strength and conditioning coach in the afternoons, his baseball trainer in the mornings. And if he has a question, he just asks his teachers, and they get back to him." Erik confirmed, "Each teacher has their class hours. You can hop right in and get help very quickly."
Erik added, "Baseball is, right now, my main career path. I'm hoping to play in college, get in a good school, and have a good college career as well. And having this online learning the way that it's set up and the flexibility and everything allows me to spend more time with baseball as well."
When asked about his schedule, Erik shared, "I try to keep it as similar as possible to what public school would be like. As soon as I get up in the morning, I try to get my schoolwork done. And the rest of my day either consists of baseball or free time. And baseball, at different points in the year, it gets very busy. I have individual fielding and hitting with my trainer. So, the first thing I do is get my schoolwork done because that's the most important thing to me right now."
When asked what made her most appreciate Erik's VLACS experience, Candace excitedly shared, "He's happy. His confidence. He's doing what he wants to do, and his confidence has just soared."
"I'm Pi Gracen Rochford Richardson. I want to engage in advocacy work for gender identity."
After having social challenges in public and Montessori schools, Pi Gracen Rochford Richardson's (nonbinary - they/them/theirs) family opted for homeschooling for 7th and 8th grade.
Pi shared, "After a while, we started to realize that there would be some things that would be difficult for mom and dad to teach me, so they brought VLACS to my attention. I was pretty resistant to the idea at first. But I gave it a shot. I'm so, so glad I did."
Kris, Pi's father, emphasized, "Once I looked at the VLACS program, I liked the curriculum, I liked the style, and I just felt also that it was going to offer some flexibility with Pi's learning style. It felt pretty good right from the start."
Pi's mother, Kelly, added, "Initially, I was really nervous. The staff at VLACS truly held my hand. Kris is very tech-savvy. Pi is very tech-savvy. I am not hugely tech-savvy, and it was a big stretch for me to think, 'How am I going to be part of this team and be supportive.' But with the VLACS team, we were 110% supported."
"I was diagnosed with endometriosis, went through surgery, and had to miss a lot of school. In my brick-and-mortar school, it was difficult to work with my teachers because I had to be out for a long time, and I was also made fun of by my peers. My VLACS teachers were incredible. One of my teachers actually opened up to me about her own medical experiences. This all comes back to being able to talk to them on a human level about human things," Pi said.
While at VLACS, the flexibility allowed Pi to spread learning out year-round instead of doing all course work in a traditional school schedule. Pi explained, "I school through the summer. It's my choice. I do that, so I only have to carry four courses through a regular semester. I have Asperger's, and VLACS has supported me throughout my learning. VLACS gave me the freedom and flexibility to choose what courses I want to take and what courses I need to take for what I want to do in the future."
Pi went on to talk about their college preparation: "So it was pretty clear when I joined VLACS that I wanted to go to college. I love to learn. A big deal in my getting to college was the fact that I had encouraging adults, and they made me feel like, 'Oh, yeah, I can do this.' On top of that, I gained the confidence to advocate for myself with college. VLACS has really built that from the ground up for me. I'm not the same person I was four years ago and that is due in large part to my educational experience. I have learned so many skills, but I think even more than that, I learned a lot about myself, and that's what's really helped me develop. VLACS has given me the freedom to be myself, to explore who I am, to explore what I like to learn about, and that, for me, is a very big part of me."
They shared, "Something that was really important to me was dual enrollment. I don't do well carrying five courses. Dual enrollment was great because then in college, I wouldn't have to take five courses."
Kris Richardson, Pi's father, added, "Pi has been able to almost complete a freshman years' worth of general education credits to take into college. That gives her added flexibility, whether she wants to step into a sophomore year or spread those credits out to lessen the course load during semesters."
Kelly added, "This style of education has prepared them for the future. I am just beyond grateful that we in the state of New Hampshire have this amazing free public education that offered a perfect fit for Pi. It meets the needs that we had as a family, and when your child can be educated and thrive, it doesn't get any better than that."
"I'm Cailean Anderson. I want to be an actress on Broadway."
Cailean is a 12th grader at VLACS. Cailean was attracted to VLACS four years ago because of the flexibility the school afforded her to pursue her true passion of becoming an actress.
"VLACS allows me to travel all over New Hampshire, perform in different places, make connections with others, and gives me a glimpse of what it would be like to perform professionally one day," Cailean said.
VLACS provides students opportunities to learn about various career paths through programs like Career Connections live sessions. Cailean explained, "For these live sessions, VLACS finds a professional who works in a field, and the professional will speak about what they do, and maybe 20 or so students will be in attendance, and it'll be hour-long sessions at a time. I did a live session called 'The Life of a Professional Musician,' where a graduate from Julliard presented. She works in music outreach for schools and performs all over California. She talked to us about what she does and how she got into what she does. She took questions, and I got to talk to her. VLACS put me in touch with someone who does what I eventually want to do. It's really great! That has been one of my favorite VLACS experiences so far."
Because students like Cailean are busy pursuing their interests, VLACS also offers flexibility in how many classes students have to take at a time. For instance, Cailean was overwhelmed and trying to find a balance between her rehearsals, performances, and school work. It was the start of her sophomore year, and she was taking five or six classes at once. One of her VLACS advisors reached out and said, "Hey, how are you? Are you doing okay? You seem stressed. Do you think you should drop a course for now?" Cailean was grateful and expressed, "I love how she was looking out for me, knowing I needed to find balance while I was juggling my musical, rehearsals, and classwork. VLACS is truly supporting me in my pursuit of music performance and education."
"My advisor, who is amazing, and my instructors, they've never stopped being there for me and believing in me and supporting me in my theater. One of my instructors came to see one of my shows last year. And through all that, they all make sure that I'm still the best student I can be. It makes me feel really special to know that I have teachers who care about me and care about my education that much."
Through Cailean's journey toward her acting career, her parents believe VLACS has provided a plethora of support. Cailean's mother Robin said, "The support from the teachers is second to none. She can send an email to one of her instructors, and they get back to her that day. Her advisor is almost like another parent to her, where she can reach out and share concerns that she has. I get chills, honestly, just talking about it because it makes me so happy that we made this decision.
When people say, 'What is VLACS? Why does your daughter do that?' That for me, as a parent, is why. To help them build that foundation to be a better, stronger, more confident adult as they enter the workforce."
Christian, Cailean's father, explained, "It's definitely such a good feeling to know that Caileen's instructors are there. They're working with her. They're holding her accountable, but at the same time, they're flexible enough to work with her and help her get where she wants to be. The instructor is almost like having a personal tutor instead of having a classroom teacher, and they really have taken the time to form a personal relationship with Cailean, which is just wonderful."
Kai, Erik, Pi, and Cailean all came to VLACS for an education and ended up getting the experience of a lifetime. Because they were provided with the flexibility and support to learn on their terms, they could also pursue their interests and thrive academically.
How will you personalize your experience at VLACS? Make your next move matter, and start your journey at VLACS. Customize your experience, explore careers, connect with professionals, and make the next move toward your bright future ahead.
Here are a few options to get you started.
Attend an open house and get a live virtual tour of our program. Our staff will walk you through how the program works, policies, and procedures, so you can enroll with the confidence that you will have a successful experience.
Visit our learning catalog and see what we have to offer. You'll find over 400 elementary, middle, and high school courses in a plethora of subjects.
Create a student and parent account and pick your courses. After you select your courses, guardian approve them to save your seat. A step-by-step guide on the enrollment process can be found here.
If you have any questions along the way, please reach out to us anytime at [email protected]. We look forward to you joining us!
About the author - Kathryn Kennedy
Dr. Kathryn Kennedy is passionate about working with individuals, schools, and organizations to help them tell their stories and support them in meeting the needs of their communities in holistic, authentic, and meaningful ways. With over 20 years of experience in the fields of online and blended teaching, learning, research, and emerging technologies in education, her work focuses on exploring policy, research, and practice. Kathryn is the founder and principal consultant of Consult4ED Group and founder and executive director of Wellness for Educators. She lives in Dresden, Maine, with her husband Curtis and their fur family - three cats and a dog.