Carlie Steele

Carlie Steele

High-school student Carlie Steele is a student at Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA). She raised the idea of attending Connections Academy to her family as a way to better fit Carlie’s Kindness Campaign, the non-profit she founded at the age of 9. Her traditional bricks-and-mortar school was unable to provide the educational experiences she craved: an advanced curriculum that complimented her specific interests while allowing a flexible schedule.

“Connections Academy has connected me with the right people and opportunities to allow me to thrive as a student and build a successful pathway for my future,” said Carlie. “Currently, I am enrolled in business classes to help me prepare for college, develop my non-profit, and meet with staff that helps me spread the word about Carlie’s Kindness Campaign.

My favorite part about Connections Academy is being able to do school on the go. A big part of my life is the #BeingKindIsCool Assembly Tour, where I talk about spreading kindness in communities and the importance of volunteerism for philanthropic organizations, schools, teams, and other groups. With this project, many hours of an ‘average school day’ are spent on the road, so being able to do my schoolwork when and where I want is a huge help.”

Social interaction is a huge part of a teenager’s world, and Carlie learned that she didn’t have to give up on typical high-school experiences. “Initially, I was a bit concerned about making friends in a virtual environment. I know a concern of families considering Connections Academy is whether your student will have enough social interaction. But I realized I had nothing to worry about. Through Live Lesson sessions, where you have daily or weekly communication with your teachers and fellow classmates; in-person field trips, and events like prom and our spring celebration, I have made so many connections with my fellow classmates and have made tons of friends. I communicate with them on a regular basis.

Carlie Steele sitting on a bench with balloons

Sometimes people assume that students in virtual education are not social and rarely leave their homes when the reality is that most of us are thriving socially. Connections Academy offers lots of academic and extracurricular options that are tailored to your needs, as well as your schedule so you can fit in all of your other commitments, like music, sports, and social activities.

Carlie is excited about her future. “Connections Academy provides me with the resources I need to succeed in high school and prepare for what comes next, whether that be college, trade, or any career. Professionally, my classes have taught me many skills including job interview tactics, communication styles, college application tools, and much more.

To anyone considering Connections Academy, I can say with total confidence that making the switch has dramatically improved my academic life, as well as my productivity. While being a student in online school, you are held accountable for your own education and completing your classes, which requires self-motivation, independence, and maturity. Connections Academy, while not right for everyone, can be tailored to fit all types of students, whether you are advanced, or need a little more time in your learning, it can make a world of difference for students of any age.

To learn more about Carlie’s Kindness Campaign, visit and follow me on my journey of spreading kindness on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter: @carlieskindesscampaign. Keep Spreading Kindness!

“I came to my parents with the suggestion of attending Connections Academy when I realized that my old high school just wasn’t fitting my needs. Between my crazy schedule with the Carlie’s Kindness Campaign, and the lack of advanced curriculum at my old school, I knew I needed a change that would accommodate my priorities while allowing me to thrive as a student.” -- Carlie Steele

Melissa Steele, Parent

Melissa Steele

Like all parents, Melissa Steele wanted to make sure her daughter, Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA) high-school student Carlie Steele, received an education that matched her needs, from the curriculum to the extracurricular activities and quality-of-life issues. At first, Melissa had some concerns about transitioning her daughter Carlie to online school, but she quickly educated herself on the benefits and decided that an alternative setting provided the best solution for her child.

“My main fear was that Carlie would lose out on socialization opportunities, but this quickly proved to be an irrational fear,” said Melissa. “The flexibility of online learning allowed for swimming lessons, piano lessons, softball, basketball, and volleyball, without the exhaustion of being ‘at school’ all day. Our state athletics association offers virtual-school students the opportunity to participate in their home district in athletics, band, dance, and many other activities. Carlie’s socialization is tailored to her, and we feel quite lucky.

Carlie’s Kindness Campaign requires a lot of daytime hours for meetings and speaking engagements, so she needed the flexibility to do her school work around her nonprofit work. Connections Academy works for us because there are fewer distractions, which makes for a more productive learning environment.

We felt that Carlie needed educational programming that was more tailored to her strengths. Being an advanced student, she sometimes had to teach herself, either at a back table or in the hallway because she had already learned the material being covered in the classroom.

We love the flexibility, safety, individualized education based on each student’s strengths and weaknesses, incredible teachers and staff, the ease of use of Connexus, and the field trips. We never feel like we’re doing this alone; there are so many wonderful people and happy families within Connections Academy.

As a parent, I truly believe that with this school choice, we are laying the foundation for a good work ethic, essential workforce skills, and a love of learning. I would absolutely recommend Connections Academy to other families. In fact, I have referred many families! Carlie’s life is so busy with Carlie’s Kindness Campaign, and parents often ask me how she does it all. Connections Academy is a major reason she is able to do so much. Without the flexibility and all-around stellar, personalized educational program, Carlie would not be able to juggle it all. Did it take a leap of faith to try something new and different? Absolutely, not only is Carlie better off for it, our entire family is as well. We are grateful to have this opportunity".

“As a parent, I truly believe that with this school choice, we are laying the foundation for a good work ethic, essential workforce skills, and a love of learning. I would absolutely recommend Connections Academy to other families. In fact, I have referred many families!” -- Melissa Steele