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October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Some students turn to online school because of bullying so that they can focus on their academics.

Matthew Varga is a 16-year-old who just started his junior year with Chicago Virtual Charter School (CVCS). From his big smile and good grades, you would never knew that he was severely bullied while at a brick and mortar school.

“The stress put me in the hospital,” Matthew said.

When 6th grade came along, Matthew enrolled in CVCS for the 2011-12 school year. Since joining the online school, he has found a safe haven where he can learn and thrive in his studies.

“My only regret is I did not start my boys sooner,” said Matthew’s mother, Lisa Varga. “Matt has been a whole different person since starting at CVCS.”

When Matthew was 8 years old, he was diagnosed with separation anxiety and depression.

“All this with the bullying made him not want to socialize or go to school,” Lisa said. “Since starting at CVCS, Matt has so much more confidence socially. He actually looks forward to his learning center day so he can see his friends at school – it’s amazing!”

“It is nice to be able to go to school and learn instead of being worried about being bullied,” Matthew said.

Matthew offered advice to students struggling with bullies in their life.

“Do not let bullies define who you are or what you want to become,” he said. “The best advice I got from my mom, she said, ‘The best way to get back at a bully is to make something of yourself.’  Eventually the bullies will get bored and move on, but in the meantime find what makes you happy.”

One of Matthew’s favorite hobbies is chess. He has been playing for six years and has never missed a tournament.

“I play at monthly tournaments hosted by Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation,” he said.

Chess has become an outlet for Matthew and a fun extra-curricular activity to explore his talents.

“My favorite experience so far was when I won the Greater Chicago Chess Tournament back in February with 4 ½ points out of 5,” he said. “This was the biggest tournament of the year.”

Matthew has had nothing but positive experiences since joining CVCS – so much so that it’s hard for him to choose one teacher who stands out in his mind.

“I really do not have a favorite teacher,” he said. “All my teachers are fantastic, so it’s hard to pick one.”

His favorite subject is his 3D Modeling Art class. “[It] leads to Animation class next semester and I love animation,” Matthew said. “I would like to continue that after school.”

He has also gained new friendships, including his best friend, from online classes, and he hangs out with his chess friends every month at their meetings and competitions.

Matthew hopes to continue playing chess every month and eventually become a Chess Grandmaster.

Matthew meeting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

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