CAVA Student Represents California in Microsoft Office Specialist National Championship

Originally published in The Silicon Valley Voice – March 18, 2021

With a nod in the right direction from her teacher and encouragement from her parents, Aya Istanbooly practiced, practiced, practiced before taking the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) National Championship Word certification exam online last December.

The 15-year-old from Santa Clara passed with a perfect score of 1,000 points out of 1,000.

“I feel very, very excited and happy about being the California finalist,” said Istanbooly. “I literally started jumping up and down when I got the email announcing that.”

The MOS Championship, presented by Certiport, Inc., tests students’ skills on Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Istanbooly heard about the competition from her MOS teacher, Jamie Archer, at the online California Virtual Academy (CAVA), where she is a 9th grader.

“I started online schooling back in middle school before the pandemic,” said Istanbooly.  “Online schooling definitely helped me gain computer skills as I’m using the computer pretty much all day.

“I think because I’ve been online schooled from before COVID-19, and because CAVA already had a well-built, online schooling system, the pandemic didn’t affect me as much as it did some of my friends or my siblings. I didn’t have to get used to a new online learning environment.”

Istanbooly entered the MOS Championship to showcase her skills and try for a scholarship to study medicine, specializing in pediatrics. Since becoming involved in technology and computers, she is considering how she might combine healthcare and IT (information technology) in a career.

“It’s a little harder for women to get a good career in tech and STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] in general, but I think that more and more opportunities are opening up and giving women a better chance to pursue their dreams and do what they like,” said Istanbooly.

She prepared for the MOS Word certification exam with GMetrix practice tests. She gained practical experience through project-based learning tasks in her class. For example, she used Word to make an informational flyer about a health topic.

“I feel pretty proud of myself for working hard and putting a lot of effort into achieving this,” said Istanbooly.

She’s not the only one who’s proud.

“We’re so very proud of our daughter. She always proves to us that she’s an incredible young woman,” said her dad (who works in high tech) and mom, Tewfik and Amani Istanbooly. “We’re excited to see her compete in this championship, and we’re looking forward to all her successes in the future.”

The 2021 MOS U.S. National Championship was originally scheduled to take place in Orlando, FL. However, because of the pandemic, it will now take place online, with winners announced June 23. The competition period is still open, and students aged 13 – 22 can submit exams until May 14, 2021 at

The U.S. national winner will compete in the 2021 MOS International Championship in August. In 2019, 155 students from 59 countries competed in the international championship.

To learn more about California Virtual Academies, visit

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