Maine Virtual Academy (MEVA) senior Sarah Penney is about to walk across the stage as co-valedictorian.
Sarah, who will be graduating with a 3.97 GPA, also received the Maine Principal’s Award for Academic Excellence, as well as the Mitchell Scholarship Award from the Mitchell Institute, which awards scholarships to graduating seniors from Maine’s public schools. Each recipient receives a $9,000 scholarship toward their college education.
It wasn’t an easy journey for this honors student to get to this point. Before enrolling to MEVA, Sarah had suffered for 10 years from what felt like a year-round flu, with reoccurring harsh headaches. She had missed 120 days of school trying to identify what her body was going through. Finally, during her sophomore year, she received a proper diagnosis.
“I’ve been diagnosed with vestibular migraines,” Sarah said. “It is pretty new. Our local pediatrician referred us to a Boston specialist who has been really great. I’ve had to fully change my lifestyle to combat the migraines, which is why MEVA came into the picture.”
Once Sarah’s mother learned of the new online school opening, they found it would be the perfect fit to suit Sarah’s educational needs.
“Traditional public school wasn’t working for me,” Sarah said. “My medical needs prevented me from doing well in honors classes, and the school wasn’t used to making accommodations.”
She explains that MEVA has been a great balance because the curriculum is challenging and the teachers are supportive. The flexibility has allowed her to take quizzes and tests and do her schoolwork at any time of the day.
“I can do school at 8 or 9 in the morning or late at night,” Sarah said. “I had a meeting early one morning for my community theater – I could do that because I wasn’t stuck in a classroom.”
Her K12 family is happy to hear that it has been two years since she has felt as sick as she did prior to her diagnosis and she is finally finding a learning environment that fits her needs.
Since enrolling at MEVA, Sarah has been very involved with her community theater as the new assistant director for the musical, Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat.
“It will run the first weekend in July,” Sarah said. “I coordinate auditions, recruiting actors within the community for auditions, help the director stay on track, and work with the stage manager.”
She is proactive in supporting MEVA’s educational program. She helps other students and has been asked on more than one occasion to help prepare MEVA’s juniors and seniors for college admissions and transitions. She was even asked to speak to the Maine Charter Commission at the state house in January on why she chose MEVA.
“I emphasized the importance of having control and flexibility over your own education,” Sarah said. “Students can invest time in things we struggle with and become better learners for it. I also said that K12 has helped better prepare me for college courses. K12 instills personal responsibility in their students – you should be a self-motivated student. No one is holding your hand in college – online school is great training!”
Sarah plans to attend the University of Maine this fall.