Saturday April 8 2017
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PA Cyber News

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Cyber student kept social ties to former school

When Jennifer McKee left her western Pennsylvania high school for a cyber school, she didn’t leave her school friends and social life behind.

Now a President’s Award winner as a top freshman at Penn State University, Jennifer said enrolling in the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School for her high school academic career was the right decision for her.

She didn’t miss out on the “high school experience” because she stayed involved at Northgate High School through extracurricular activities and athletics. She acted in three high musicals, lettered two years in track, was a member of the marching band dance troupe, and went to every prom and homecoming dance.

Jennifer remained a member of her high school’s German Club and went on the club trip to Europe twice, in her freshman and junior years, touring Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Poland.

“My school was pretty understanding about it,” she said. “They allowed charter school students to participate in any school activity that was non-graded.”

State school law requires school districts to allow charter school students to return to their home schools for extracurricular activities such as athletics if the activity is not offered by the charter school. Schools do have some latitude in how they interpret the law, however. Jennifer is grateful Northgate did not make it difficult for her to remain involved.

Why did she leave high school in the first place?

“At my regular school there were a lot of disruptions and distractions in the classrooms. I’d go to school for six hours and then come home with tons of homework. I felt like I was teaching myself anyway, so with my learning style I might as well teach myself in cyber school.”

Once when she had trouble understanding a concept, the teacher she went to for help told her, “You’re a smart girl. Figure it out.” Those experiences were the last straws.

“She wasn’t happy,” said her mother. “I had looked at other cyber schools. I liked what I heard about PA Cyber. It had a strong curriculum and she could take college classes in high school.”

Jennifer enrolled in October of her freshman year and remained in PA Cyber through graduation in 2010.

“She liked the freedom of self-paced classes, and wanted to be active in the PA Cyber Plus Plus program because it’s important to her to participate,” her mother said.

While enjoying the freedom, she accepted responsibility and worked hard to keep her grades up to her own high expectations.

“I was self-motivated and my parents had to be involved. There’s no teacher on your back every day to make sure you get your stuff done.”

Jennifer remains close to many of her high school friends. In fact, two who currently are enrolled at Penn State branch campuses plan to room with Jennifer when they move up to the main campus their junior year.

Karen McKee said she’s often asked if cyber school prepares a student for college. She tells them it’s not for everyone, but it was good preparation for Jennifer.