Student Voices: 2015 Graduate Brittany Jacobson

Minnesota Connections Academy

high school girl receiving diploma

This spring has been an important time in my life. Like many kids my age, I graduated from high school. However, my high school experience was very different than that of most kids my age. I didn’t sit in class for eight hours a day, I didn’t worry about what I wore, or who would tease me. I didn’t talk through class, or listen to all the drama that is always present in a regular high school. I didn’t go to sporting events or parties on Friday nights. Maybe to most kids my age that means I missed out on a lot of high school experiences, but to me that means I got to do high school my way. I didn’t have to follow cultural norms, or get everything done on a strict schedule. I didn’t have to worry about a school dress code, or fitting in time for doing my own thing. Instead of having a “normal” high school experience, I went to Minnesota Connections Academy.

Connections Academy is an online school for K-12 students. Yes, for high school students, too. Now this may make it sound like I could blow things off or that I was failing out of regular high school. This wasn’t the case. An online high school can actually be much harder than a traditional one. This happens because the school is strictly focused on learning. I didn’t have outside interruptions. Each day I was required to log onto the school website. On my homepage there would be a list of assignments that had to be done in a given day. These assignments would include videos, reading, and a quick three to ten point quiz at the end of each lesson that would give me automatic feedback to show me how I did. Some classes would have a LiveLesson® session once a week. A LiveLesson is a video chat that allows the state-certified teacher of the class to walk you through what you're supposed to be learning in the class. These lessons would include all the other students in the class. They give you the chance to ask questions and get immediate feedback. When you couldn’t make a lesson you could usually watch the recording of it. This came in really handy if I was struggling with a specific area. This way of learning allowed me to understand and get more out of classes than I ever did in a regular school.

In a traditional school, PSEO (post secondary enrollment option), which allows a high school student to take college courses for free, is not typically encouraged. Students will typically avoid taking this option so that they can stay with their friends in the high school. In some cases, students won’t take it because schools won’t tell them about it, or they won’t let students play sports unless they take classes at the high school instead. Since online schools don’t apply this pressure to stay in the high school, the option to do PSEO was a lot more acceptable. For my junior and senior years of high school I was almost strictly enrolled at Hibbing Community College. I now have my associate degree, without any debt, and before I graduated high school. This gives me a huge step up for next year when I go to the University of Minnesota Duluth. I now only have to go to UMD for two years in order to finish my bachelor’s degree. Since I’m going to go to medical school, the less debt I can rack up the better.

I did not go to an online school to get out of being social. In fact, I learned how to be more social by going to Connections Academy than I ever did in traditional schools. I went to "typical" schools through eighth grade. I went to a big city school through seventh grade and then Hibbing High School in eighth. I was always shy. Right now, no one would call me shy. I am not afraid to talk to people. Connections Academy and going to the college got me to really come out of my shell. I participated in student senate at the college, and when we would have field trips through Connections, being shy quit being an option, and I’m glad.

Because of going to online school, I learned how to manage my time and get my schoolwork done efficiently and with good grades. I graduated with honors from both schools this year.

Congratulations class of 2015, no matter how we went to high school, I know we all had an experience we will never forget.