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Written by: Jenna Needham

How does 16-year-old Tulsa resident Shawn Chen excel at piano, swimming, and school? Shawn and his parents attribute his success to Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy (OVCA). Shawn has been enrolled in OVCA since he was in fifth grade.

Shawn was homeschooled since first grade, but his family wanted a program that was a better fit for him.

“We found OVCA when we were looking for a better alternative that would still allow him to study at home,” said Shawn’s mother, Xuemei Zhao. “Shawn also had so many hobbies that he wanted to spend more time on so he needed the flexible schedule.”

Now, Shawn has a more rigorous curriculum that always challenges him. He has performed outstandingly on both his state tests and standardized tests and is confident that the pattern will continue.

“Also, through online school he has developed heightened proactivity, time-management, and self-discipline,” said Xuemei.

Shawn now also has more time to dedicate to two of his favorite things: piano and swimming. He puts a minimum of two hours a day into each of these activities.

“Shawn has been playing the piano for 11 years,” said Xuemei. “Before he knew how to play the piano, he was already attempting to play it, and he found just pure enjoyment and amusement in it.” Shawn was able to develop his playing skills so much that he won second place honors at the American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition, which earned him the opportunity to play at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in July.

In addition to his piano playing, Shawn has also been swimming for five years at a local club in Tulsa. He participates in numerous swimming competitions around the state year-round.

“My specialty is the 100-meter freestyle,” Shawn said.

Pursuing your passions can be difficult with the strict schedule of brick and mortar school. With online school, Shawn improves at the things he loves without having to compromise his education.

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