Brandon Oliver Sosa is on his way to achieving great academic success. Upon his completion of high school, Brandon was awarded the prestigious Wildcat Excellence tuition award from the University of Arizona after placing in the top 3% nationally in ACT scores and in the top 2% in SAT scores. According to his family, these academic accomplishments can largely be attributed to Brandon’s change in attitude towards school after enrolling at Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA).
At the age of 8, Brandon told his mother, Victoria, that he “did not belong in this world.” Diagnosed on the autism spectrum as a toddler, Brandon faced severe bullying in third grade at his traditional brick-and-mortar school.
“The classrooms were over-crowded and the teachers did not have time to give Brandon the attention he needed,” Victoria said. In fact, she even noticed a decline in his math and language skills as time progressed.
“Some days all I would do is draw and doodle in my notebooks,” Brandon explained. More often than not, Brandon would return home with no homework to complete and a decreased inclination to learn. This unsettling trend is what sparked Victoria’s decision to enroll Brandon mid-year at AZVA.
Victoria originally learned about AZVA from a meeting with Brandon’s special needs teacher, who highly recommended the program; he had two children enrolled in the online school even though he taught in a traditional school setting. Upon enrolling in January, Brandon said, “It took me a long time to catch up, but the teachers were very accommodating and helpful. The curriculum allowed me to learn at the pace that I needed.”
Besides separating himself from the toxic environment of his previous school, Brandon also enjoyed many other benefits at AZVA. Brandon says he processes information at a slower pace than other students, so he greatly appreciated the flexibility of AZVA’s curriculum.
AZVA worked with Brandon and his parents to develop an individualized learning plan that included extra time and a reduced number of assignments, as long as Brandon demonstrated that he had mastered the concept. “I had to work long days to stay on track, and I could not have done it without K12’s flexibility,” he said.
Throughout his time at AZVA, Brandon participated in several extracurricular activities. He enjoyed being a member of chess club, and he also went on several school outings, including a behind-the-scenes visit to a pizzeria, a Harlem Globetrotters game, a zoo trip, and a dinosaur exhibit.
While in elementary school, Brandon also participated in a hybrid program for children with special needs through AZVA where met several other students and participated in activities that helped with socialization and teacher connection.
Brandon is also very involved in the Scouting community. While pursuing his Eagle Scout status, Brandon developed a 7-foot-tall sensory percussion tree, which now sits at the Sensory Playground of Anamax Park in Sahuarita, AZ.
“I wanted to do something for other children with special needs like me,” he explained. “Since I remembered attending occupational therapy and making use of different sensory tools, I decided to design a ‘tree’ that was welded out of metals.” This tree was crafted with shaped branches created with percussion items that hung, including chimes, bells, a gong, and a drum.
Even with all the extracurricular activities, Brandon still remained focused on the goal at hand. “I wanted to excel at school,” he said. “I knew that I had autism but I still wanted to be on the honor roll, so I focused on my academics primarily, then attended my weekly piano lessons and went to Scouts every Tuesday.”
Now as an AZVA alumnus, this pre-med major is able to focus on his future as he aspires to help others with autism. Brandon’s professional ambition is to one day become a neurologist.
Victoria attributes Brandon’s academic success to his switch to an online program. “AZVA was certainly an academic challenge for Brandon, but he was able to work at his own pace,” she said. “In turn, he faced success while believing in himself and realizing his own worth.”