Stefanie Lewis is the mother of Michael “Cade” Norton, a graduate of Great Lakes Cyber Academy. She lives with her family in Trenton. After enrolling in Great Lakes Cyber Academy, Cade’s academics improved and his confidence and love of learning blossomed. Stefanie tells their story below.
“I am the very proud mom of Michael ‘Cade’ Norton, a GLCA graduate. I am a full-time night shift nurse, working with long-term geriatric patients and cardiac rehabilitation patients. I am a homebody, for the most part. My mother lives across the street, and my best friend of 20 years lives next door. (And our kids are best friends now!) We often joke about having our ‘own corner of the world.’ My husband works for a chemical company and coaches several sports for Special Olympics all year round.
Cade excelled at Great Lakes Cyber Academy (GLCA) in ways we never imagined. He had always been extremely smart; he knew the alphabet, colors, shapes, and his name, address, and phone number before entering preschool. He even read books at that age.
Starting in middle school, Cade began struggling academically. His MEAP test scores were above average, as were his scores on other tests and assessments. He was reading at a college freshman level, but his school work and grades didn’t show it. We tried every tactic to get his grades up and to get him to do his work. We tried Sylvan Learning Center, punishment–reward tactics, in-school counseling, etc. Cade refused to do any work.
In his ninth grade year, we figured out the problem: Cade simply didn’t fit the typical brick-and-mortar school. He learns differently. He received no help at his brick-and-mortar school. The staff there had told us that he didn’t qualify for 504 or IEP because he had no actual learning disability. ‘There is nothing we can do for him,’ they said, following up with, ‘He just doesn’t care about school.’
That’s the time we started looking for something different. We weren’t looking for a magic cure or less work, just something different. It was breaking our hearts to see our son’s intelligence and potential remaining untapped and becoming lost. That’s when we went as a family to an information session for Great Lakes Cyber Academy. We were sold immediately. At that point, we figured that if it didn’t work, we would lose nothing.
As Cade started tenth grade at GLCA, it seemed too good to be true. On the first day of school, I got home at 7 a.m. from working the night shift and stopped to talk to neighborhood friends as their kids boarded the bus. Some asked questions: ‘Where is Cade?’ ‘Did he quit?!’ Some of the neighborhood moms, once I explained the ‘new school,’ gave me a strange look.
Immediately, I was anxious to wake Cade and get started. I was starting to think that maybe this plan would backfire on us. Or, what if I wasn’t a good Learning Coach? It has been 20 years since I attended high school. What if I forgot? My husband and I hadn’t been in college classes in years! To be honest, I also wondered if I had taken on too much, given that I worked nights, was a mom-taxi, and did housework.
That first morning, when I walked in the door, Cade, the anti-morning child, was already up and had made each of us a cup of cappuccino. He had already logged onto the GLCA education management system and was working. It was beautiful. It was the least stressful first day of school in years.
Enrolling Cade at GLCA was a positive experience. Not only did Cade excel academically, but also his self-esteem flourished. We can see it in his conversations, as he is now less shy around strangers. We even see it in his music. According to his music teacher, Cade is a ‘gifted and talented’ drummer. Also, he decided to pick up a bass guitar and learn how to play.
A few years ago, his actions suggested that he thought, ‘I would like to learn, but I don’t think can.’ Bottom line: he has blossomed not only as a student, but also as a person. He is now a young man with one wild sense of humor and a boatload of confidence.
I credit the teachers and staff at GLCA. There is never an occasion when they refused to be there for him. I have never seen a teacher say that he or she was too busy to help Cade.”
I honestly cannot say enough positive things about GLCA. My only regret is not enrolling my son sooner.