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Isabelle Richardson competing in Ribbon event.

Written by Victoria Bannon

“Flexibility” is what it’s all about for Nevada Virtual Academy (NVVA) 6th grader Isabelle Richardson. It’s what has allowed her to become an elite rhythmic gymnast and also how she’s been able to achieve academically through virtual schooling. “You can go faster or slower with the personalized lessons – they keep up with you,” shares the three-time national champion, who divides her time between the USA Elite Squad and her studies.

Spotted when she was very young at her older sister’s ballet lesson, Isabelle’s remarkable physical agility caught the eye of another student’s parent, who suggested she try contortionism. After learning about rhythmic gymnastics, a form of the sport that combines traditional gymnastics with dance, Isabelle joined a local gym and hasn’t stopped since.

“There are a number of events. I work with ribbons, hoops, balls, clubs, and rope,” she said. “You have to incorporate these into your routine in order for it to qualify as rhythmic.”

Isabelle’s ultimate dream is to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics, the first Olympics for which she will be eligible. Isabelle has to work extremely hard in order to maintain her national champion title, which is where the schedule flexibility provided by virtual schooling comes in.

“Since I train Monday through Friday for four to six hours, it was so hard to get my schoolwork done,” she said. “Online school works with my schedule. I can work on weekends when I have more time and I’m able to go to meets without worrying about the school I’m missing.”

Isabelle has been in online schooling since 3rd grade, when her parents noticed that she had serious gaps in her learning. She had four teachers in her 2nd grade class and suffered academically. Her mother, Jeanie, feels that “K12 has helped Isabelle to work at her own pace. It has also helped her fit in time for training.” Jeanie also shares that her daughter is able to maintain a variety of friendships with the other athletes at her gym and looks forward each day to spending time with them training.

When asked about future plans, Richardson’s dreams are the 2020 and 2024 Olympics- and becoming a dentist like her father. “I’m glad that NVVA is here so I can pursue all of my dreams!”

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