Community Builder: Online school opens virtual doors
Chelsea Farr grew up in New York Mills, but life ended up taking her on a journey - to a whole lot of places.
Transferring schools throughout her junior high and high school years was a challenge for Farr, who craved a little stability.
She found that stability and much more through a Minnesota online school, Insight.
Her junior and senior years were highlights for Farr, who was able to break from the traditional high school courses and get into AP and honors courses in more subjects than she could have imagined.
"I was taking classes that were more at my level," Farr said.
She was also able to stick with the same school and teachers, even in the midst of a move.
On Farr's agenda through the two years were AP psychology, AP history and AP calculus, to name a few.
When Farr made the move to the online scene, there were a few people in her life who were a bit apprehensive about the departure from the traditional school setting.
"When I heard, I shrieked and squawked and carried on," said Farr's Grandmother Mary Hall, a New York Mills resident. "In my experience, I knew everybody and everyone knew me. Every class has the brainiac, the beauty, the social butterfly and the jock - I just thought she should have that experience, negative or positive."
Now, Hall will be the first to tell you that she was wrong.
"Obviously, it (the online school) was a benefit," Hall said. "There were no diversions or distractions from what she was doing."
Farr graduated with honors and has secured a place next year at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn., where she plans to study pre-law.
While Farr didn't get the traditional high school experience, she regards hers to have been better suited for her.
Her social life was as alive as ever. With the school hosting proms, formals and countless clubs, she never felt she was missing out. She was a member of the book club, movie club, NASA club, fitness club, and photography club and was involved in the prom planning committee. There were also plenty of field trips she was able to attend.
"There's a lot of stuff to do," she said.
Not only was her social life fulfilled, but Farr also saw improvements in her teacher-student relationships.
"Teachers are really accessible," she said. "You can reach them day and night."
Farr didn't come across a teacher she didn't feel answered her questions or showed her attention when requested. The same went with technology support and guidance counselors, who she said were all on hand when she needed help.
"They're really on top of their game, I guess," she said.
Despite the glowing reviews Farr gives online school, she said it's not for everyone.
"It's for people who take their education very seriously - and it requires a lot of hard work," she said.
While students in traditional brick and mortar schools have the constant accountability with peers and teachers, Farr said it was up to her to get her work done for the day. If she didn't have her homework done, she didn't have to worry about being humiliated in front of a class. Instead, she used her own motivation to push her through, all while she sat alone at the computer.
"You need to really buckle down and concentrate," she said.
Her high school experience was as close to college as she could have gotten. With only her to hold herself accountable, she learned skills she needs to succeed at the next level. Her grandmother isn't too worried, either.
"I'm not at all concerned about her going to Gustavus," Hall said. "She's going to ace that as sure as I'm standing here."