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GWUOHS Student Stefani Deschner (left) takes her opponent down

Written by Victoria Bannon

When George Washington University Online High School (GWUOHS) rising senior Stefani Deschner was younger, she used to put a fencing mask on one of her stuffed animals and practice drills on it.

Years later, Stefani, now 17, is the third-best female fencer in the world under the age of 20 after winning the bronze medal at the Cadet World Championships.

“Fencing, or foil, is usually known as ‘the sport with swords,’ but it’s a lot more than that,” she explained. “It’s played with two people that are both holding blunted instruments who have to hit each other in certain target areas. There is a referee that judges who has the ‘right of way,’ and you gain points when you hit the other person. Whoever gets to 15 points first is the winner.”

Stefani got involved with fencing when she was 11 after accompanying a friend to a private lesson. From there she was hooked.

“I started practicing the footwork around the house,” she said. “I wanted to do it all the time. Fencing is a very addicting sport, so it’s hard to stay away from it.”

The three-year veteran of GWUOHS decided to move to online schooling when she joined the U.S. National Team and her fencing career began to intensify as she traveled around the globe to train and compete. A brick and mortar student would not be able to maintain such a schedule, much less get the high ACT scores that helped Stefani get accepted to the University of Notre Dame, which she will attend next fall.

“Given the fact that I travel 10 months out of the year, it would be impossible to go to a brick and mortar school and be able to do foil at the same time,” said Stefani, a native of Mechanicsville, Virginia, who has competed in Russia, Uzbekistan, France, Algeria and Germany, among other countries. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing without the help of my teachers. They are willing to work with my crazy schedule and understand that I have no control over it. I can text, skype or call them whenever I want, so it makes it a lot easier to understand concepts at my own pace.”

“The smaller classes really work well for me. I can get to know the teacher and the other students a lot better,” she continued, adding that her social life is far more active than it was at her brick and mortar school, as she often spends hours skyping with her classmates outside of school.”

Stefani is working her way up to the senior level in fencing, where most of the current Olympians compete, with her eyes on the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Her future plans also include majoring in biology with a pre-med track at Notre Dame while competing on the fencing team for the Fighting Irish.

“A lot of the athletes who went to London (for the 2012 Olympics) are competing in Rio this year, and I’m excited to be able to take my turn,” she said. “After the Olympics, I want to go to medical school. That’s something that I couldn’t do without the help of GWUOHS and K12.”

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