Can you honestly say you knew exactly what you wanted to be in elementary school? I certainly didn’t, but the blog below shares an example of how one Generation Do-It-Yourself (GenDIY) learner began his career path earlier than anyone I know. Online education enabled him to rise above several years of bullying at school while trying to make it in the entertainment industry.
I have so much respect for the current GenDIY movement and what its members are facing. Born during the years I was struggling through college toward a pretty certain career, this wave of future employees is struggling through high school toward a completely unknown future due to skyrocketing higher education prices, rapidly changing job requirements and no guarantee of a career with a degree.
As you will see, those that find the necessary grit and determination can carve their own path to success, using education technology opportunities to make their way.
My name is Alex Angelo, and I am 15-year-old singer, DJ, dancer and musician. I also attend an online school. Here’s why:
I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer. Every year, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold a weekend dance workshop for children ages 5-13. My parents thought I’d enjoy trying something new, so I spent a Saturday with kids my age learning a dance routine. We didn’t realize that it was also a Cav Kids dance team audition, and two weeks later I received a call inviting me to join the team. After dancing in front of thousands of NBA fans, I knew without a doubt that I wanted a career in entertainment.
When I was 10, I added DJing to my interests, and began opening for concerts in downtown Cleveland. I went to a traditional school during the week, but on the weekends I was flying to different events and DJing private birthday parties.
Making the Right School Choice
As I moved to middle school, other students’ attitudes started to change toward me. Boys my age and older were not accepting of my dancing and DJing. I was doing something different, and their reaction to someone who was different was not kind. It was really tough, but I tried to make the best of it.
At the age of 12, I came home from school and I realized I had something I wanted to say about what I was experiencing. I didn’t understand why it was happening, but I knew I wasn’t alone. I made a video for everyone experiencing it as encouragement to keep being themselves. I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but it connected with so many people and over the past three years grew to 95K+ views. A few of the kids who bullied me even apologized recently after watching it, saying they better understood my side of things.
Online School Supports My Interests, Career Path
The bullying reached a point where my parents decided we needed to find another option for my education, especially if I was going to continue down the busy entertainment industry path.
This led to a discussion about online schools. No one we knew at the time was attending a virtual school, so we couldn’t ask questions about their experiences. So we decided on another first by researching different online schools and giving it a try. We found Ohio Connections Academy, a tuition-free online public school for grades K–12, and decided it was the best fit for my needs.
My mom, Tina (who is already my manager, cheerleader, parent and friend), is a certified K-12 teacher who taught in public schools for many years. She became my Learning Coach as well, facilitating my day-to-day learning at home and as she travels with me to different performances. Online school means learning a lot about organization and self-discipline, which I see as bonus preparation for success in life. School always comes first no matter what I’m doing, so we plan down to the minute. Every morning we huddle to talk about the day’s tasks and how they will fit around my schedule, writing everything out on a whiteboard so we’re on the same page.
School never stops for me – I work hard at it seven days a week so I don’t get behind and can continue to score high in all of my subjects. While I don’t think online is the best option for everyone as we all learn at different speeds, for me and my situation it’s perfect. I know that is the case for others as well, and it would be really tough for us if they close online schools.
My Future, My Career
I know what I want my future career to be, so I’m willing to put in the extra effort to reach my goals. There are many pros and cons to this path, but I feel lucky for the opportunity to try it out now while I’m young. Online school has helped me follow my dreams and accomplish what I want to do every day.
Since the response to my initial video about bullying was so overwhelmingly positive, I recently decided to revisit the topic in another video. However, this time I asked fans to take part by sending me pictures holding up a message of how they’d like the world to see them. I received thousands of pictures from all over the world and created this video called “See Through My Eyes.”
Young people are taking control of their own pathway to careers, college and contribution. Powered by digital learning, “GenDIY” is combatting unemployment and the rising costs of earning a degree by seeking alternative pathways to find or create jobs they love. Follow their stories here and on Twitter at #GenDIY. For more, check out:
- Getting Smart Podcast | GenDIY: Emerging Options for Students Navigating Life
- Roadmap: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do with Your Life
- Online Learning: The Lifeblood of GenDIY
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