Last week, a group of high school seniors from Texas Virtual Academy (TXVA) celebrated their graduation at the Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas. But this wasn’t just your average commencement ceremony.
All of these students attended school virtually.
More than 400 students graduated from TXVA, an online public charter school that serves students statewide.
While TXVA students don’t see each other in person every day, they interact with each other through their virtual classrooms, as well as discussion threads and instant messaging and have built strong relationships. TXVA’s active school community also organizes monthly activities, including socialoutings and service-learning projects where students can get together in person. Graduation allowed these students to celebrate their accomplishments together, some meeting for the first time. TXVA teachers and staff were also in attendance to recognize the students’ achievements.
“Graduation is a day of celebration not only of our graduates, but also of those who have helped support our graduates on the journey to this important milestone,” Tina Littell, interim head of school at TXVA, said. “We thank the families and friends of our graduates for standing beside them through the trials and joys of their high school careers.”
The ceremony opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by graduate Elizabeth Longo. Music appreciation teacher Art Osborne performed several songs on the saxophone, and Dr. Margaret Jorgensen, chief academic officer at K12, Inc., also delivered remarks.
Francesca DeCraen was the valedictorian of TXVA’s Class of 2017. As the student with the highest grade-point average in her class, she received the school’s Highest Ranking Graduate Award from the State of Texas. The award provides free tuition for her freshman year of college at Sam Houston State University. The salutatorian, Morgan Flood, also addressed her classmates. An accomplished figure skater who aspires to represent Azerbaijan in the 2018 Winter Olympics, she shared with the audience how the flexibility and nurturing culture at TXVA has allowed her to prepare for the Olympic Trials while still preparing for post-secondary success.
“Our motto at Texas Virtual Academy is that we are not just a school, but an opportunity where every moment matters,” Littell said. “All of our graduates are individuals who have lived that motto, taking advantage of every moment, showing resilience in the face of obstacles and seizing opportunities to learn more, do more and be more.”
Collectively, the Class of 2017 was offered more than $1.2 million in college scholarships. The graduates have been accepted to colleges and universities across the country, from in-state institutions such as University of Texas-Arlington, UTSA, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Southern, Texas State, University of Houston, Texas Tech, Sam Houston State and Steven F. Austin, to national schools like Virginia Tech, Georgia Southern, MIT, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Academy of the Art and Berklee College of Music. In addition, a number of students plan to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“The Class of 2017 has worked hard to get to this day,” Littell said. “This is the first step in our graduates’ life journeys.”