As we close out National School Choice Week (#SCW) and reflect on the events that were held around the nation, we wanted to give folks who may have missed a rally or event, a quick dive into the stories of those who’ve personally been affected thanks to benefits of school choice. Join me as we recap just four of many rallies that happened this week:

Timothy Samsa, Virtual School Teacher, South Carolina

Timothy Samsa_NSCW-editsTimothy Samsa spoke this week at a rally at the South Carolina State House and shared a story of when he first became a virtual school teacher. Timothy’s mother asked if he would still need to keep his part time job he’d had during graduate school. She was skeptical that this school wasn’t a “real school” so he wouldn’t be getting a “real” salary. His story made it clear that there is skepticism and confusion from a clear generation gap. In some states, many are unaware of the opportunities virtual school affords both teachers and students, so Timothy was thankful to be in South Carolina where he could choose to teach in a virtual environment.

Timothy has students who’ve enrolled in online school for a number of reasons. One is starting her entertainment career, another is a number one ranked tennis player, and a third has health restrictions that make a brick and mortar public school an unsafe and restraining option. While he acknowledged that the students could be successful in any school environment, the virtual setting works best for them.

Sterling Griffin, Student, Houston, TX

Sterling Griffith_NSCW-editsSterling is not only a student at the Texas Connections Academy at Houston, but she is also an actor who is steadily building her career. It’s clear she’s an active member of what we like to call, GenDIY. At her previous school, she felt as though there were too many “no’s” that shut the door to the potentials and opportunity of her acting career. During her speech on the stairs of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Sterling stressed that the rules and restrictions were tough not only because of her career, but because she also has ADD. Sterling said it was tough to focus in class with all of the noise and that even with the accommodations the school provided, she struggled which caused her to be bullied.

Sterling feels as though she gets even more interaction with her teachers than she got in a traditional school and having her Mom serve as her learning coach has been a great experience that allows her Mom to feel more involved and able to participate in her learning. Virtual schooling has helped Sterling turn the no’s from traditional school into more yes’ and is thankful for the freedom, flexibility, and support virtual school has afforded her. “You do have a voice! And, Yes! You do have a choice!” she said.

Jane Eilers, Parent, Iowa

Jane Ellers_NSCW-editsJane Eilers, a parent of a student with Asperger syndrome who attends a virtual school in Iowa is passionate about having high-quality education options for every student in the state, and noted that school choice is an essential solution. Jane along with other parents joined forces in Des Moines, Iowa to discuss the freedom to select educational options that ensure high level academic learning experiences as well as character building lessons for their children.

The clubs, extra-curricular activities and specialists available to her son created opportunities that helped him grow as a student. “Three years ago” she said, “When anyone approached my son to say, ‘Hi, how are you?’, he turned his back and walked away because he had isolated himself so much from the world, the words didn’t register. If you approach him with the same greeting today, he will most likely look you directly in the eyes, smile and say, ‘I’m amazing.’” In closing, Jane thanked Iowa lawmakers for allowing public virtual schools, affording parents and students the power to choose the best educational option for their situation and said “We have our son back.” Now that’s a Smart Parent talking.

Braedon Higby, Student, Idaho

Braedon Higby_NSCW-225x225Braedon is a sophomore and was eager to share why school choice had the utmost importance in his life as he spoke at a capital city rally in Boise, Idaho. While in public school he was often getting bored and becoming uninterested in his education. He was unable to advance in the curriculum and felt held back from the potential he knew he had. The opportunity to choose virtual school has given Braedon a chance to move at his own pace. He took Algebra 1 in 7th grade and is now taking honors pre-cal. “School choice has allowed me to flourish,” Braedon said.

In closing, Braedon shared that school choice is vital to our society’s education because it allows all students to excel at their own pace and explores new ways to educate students across the country in a more personalized way.

It’s important to note that school choice week is about choice. It’s not virtual school week, public school week, charter school week etc. It is school choice week and should never be framed as either/or. It’s vital that parents and students continue to be afforded the choice to pick the school and educational opportunities that fits best for their students.

At Getting Smart we’re advocating for better, more personalized learning opportunities that allow students to learn at their own pace and graduate college and career ready. What are you doing to help ensure school choice is happening in your state? How did you get involved this week?

For more see:

Connections Education is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner. Feature image via Instagram.com/SchoolChoiceWeek.

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