Sara earned her master’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University in May – at the age of 22, when most of her peers were receiving their undergraduate degrees. completed both her bachelor’s and master’s at FGCU in just four years, all while competing for the Eagles’ women’s golf team.
Her accomplishment would not have been possible without Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA).
“Before attending an online school, I really wasn’t motivated; I wasn’t that inspired to learn, and the brick and mortar school didn’t teach in the way that I learned,” said , a native of Eagan, Minnesota, who started at MNVA in fourth grade. “I was one of those students that was made for a different kind of learning. MNVA took a different approach with me and lit up my learning capabilities, and I was able to tap into more of my potential.”
participated in post-secondary education while at MNVA, taking college courses while still attending high school. She entered FGCU with 51 credits and enrolled in an accelerated undergraduate program. finished her bachelor’s degree in political science at the end of her sophomore year, then began her graduate program in public administration.
“A lot of my teammates thought I was crazy” for graduating as a sophomore, she said, explaining that she often didn’t get a lot of sleep between class, homework and golf practice. “A lot of the time I would look back on MNVA and think, ‘Well, I didn’t think I’d be able to do pre-, but I managed to get through that, so I can get through this.’”
And “get through” it she did – the golf team captain maintained a 3.93 grade-point average as an undergrad and a 4.0 in grad school, earning a number of scholar-athlete accolades.
said that her time at MNVA prepared her for college and her accelerated degree program.
“MNVA encouraged accountability,” she said. “You understood that if you didn’t do the work then it wasn’t going to get done – no one was going to force you to do it – which is really how things work at a university.”
MNVA’s flexible schedule also allowed her to participate in golf competitively throughout her youth, which eventually led to a full athletics scholarship to FGCU. , who comes from a golf family – both of her older siblings also played in college – started playing golf at the age of three and was competing in tournaments by the time she was seven. When she turned 13, began playing in American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events against the best junior golfers in the world.
“Competitive golf has been a part of my life for a very long time,” she said. “That wouldn’t have been possible if I had to be in a classroom from Monday to Friday because you have to travel to the tournament sites.”
With tournaments all over the country, could take her school on the road with her thanks to MNVA.
“Most people will learn about national history through reading a book,” she said. “I was able to read about national history while driving to Washington, D.C., for a golf tournament and then go see the national monuments. I developed a big love for history because of that – that’s actually why my degree is in political science.”
While playing sports competitively often comes to an end for most student-athletes following graduation, continues to buck the trend. Last month, she became the first-ever FGCU women’s golfer to compete in an LPGA event when she qualified for the Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio.
As a member of the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental tour, can compete in qualifying tournaments for the chance to play in LPGA events.
“I didn’t expect to come close to qualifying for that tournament. I decided last minute to go (to the qualifier) on a whim,” she said, explaining that she normally attends the qualifiers with her sister, Katie, who couldn’t make it, so she went with her mom instead. “We figured it would be good practice. By the 16th hole I realized I was doing pretty well and had a chance to qualify, but on the 18th hole I thought I had blown it.”
“A little bit of disbelief” she said of her feelings when she learned she had qualified while playing in just her second-ever Symetra qualifier. “My mom and I laughed – it was the most inconvenient dream-come-true possible because my whole family was busy. It was a happy accident.”
While did not make the cut at the Marathon Classic, she did beat former U.S. Open champion Michelle by one stroke on the second day of competition.
will continue to pursue the LPGA Tour – she will play in another qualifier at the end of the month – while also coaching at junior golf camps with her sister. Through it all, she recognizes that she would not be where she is today without MNVA.
“I know that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to accomplish what I have without having been a student at MNVA,” she said. “K12 is a system which equips students and families with knowledge and skills for the rest of their life.”