HOPE Online a lifeline for struggling sixth-grader
DOUGLAS COUNTY ¬– Jason Antonelli received straight A’s on his fifth-grade report card for the first time last year, and is on track to repeat the incredible accomplishment this year.
This success is new to the HOPE Online student, who has struggled in school since kindergarten. Jason has been diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). After enduring years of tutoring, therapy and medication to help him succeed in a traditional school, Jason is rewriting his story–and his future–through participation in HOPE Online’s blended learning program.
Medication was prescribed at an early age for Jason, who developed acute anxiety while in third grade, resulting in panic attacks that kept him home.
“He never made it through five straight days in school,” said his mother, Anne Antonelli. “By the beginning of fourth grade, even with all the interventions, he still could not read.”
Frustrated with the lack of help available in Jason’s previous school district, Antonelli began to search out alternatives, and homeschooled Jason during his fourth-grade year. She soon realized that homeschooling wasn’t a good long-term option for their family. Exhausted and exasperated, Antonelli conducted a Google search and found the HOPE Online Academy New Beginnings Learning Center.
What she found there was exactly what Jason needed. The innovative charter school provides students with an environment that includes individualized learning plans delivering instruction for full school days, five days a week. Lessons are provided through a hybrid of individualized online lessons and classroom instruction. HOPE teachers and mentors assign lessons and oversee student participation and progress. In addition to his core academic studies, Jason has the opportunity to participate in traditional activities including science fairs, gym class, art, music and sports.
Soon after enrolling at the Learning Center, Jason found success in a setting that fit his learning style. He also developed a new confidence in his ability to learn and achieve. Jason, who has followed an Individualized Education Program (IEP) since he began school, no longer needs any of the numerous interventions he has endured since kindergarten to meet his educational goals.
By joining a class that includes a total of 12 students, Jason is able to collaborate with others without being overwhelmed by a large group. HOPE mentor Willie Carey agrees that Jason is flourishing at the Learning Center.
“I call Jason ‘The Captain,’ because he has taken a leadership role in the program. He has taken ownership of his own education and academic needs, and also helped guide the academic development of his peers. He really understands what he is learning and directs his questions,” Carey said.
Every student at the Learning Center benefits from instruction designed to match their optimal learning pace. Teachers and qualified mentors work with students to plan an ideal learning schedule, giving consideration toward each child’s particular strengths and weaknesses.
Jason succeeds through guided one-on-one learning, rather than in the social setting of a traditional classroom, shares Antonelli.
“He was so afraid to be laughed at in a traditional classroom that he did not participate, and withdrew into himself. He’s not a traditional at-risk student, but had he not had HOPE Online, he would not graduate. There are so many categories of kids that cannot exist in a traditional public school, but aren’t considered at-risk.”
Antonelli believes there are large numbers of students who would benefit from alternative education.
“The options are out there, but people don’t know where to look. This program allows the classroom-type environment, but is online in a less social and more individual atmosphere,” she said.
Jason has only missed three days of school this year, and now looks forward to going to school.
“As parents, we are no longer stressed out and trying to figure out what works. And Jason is much more social because it is no longer forced upon him, ” reflects Antonelli. “HOPE Online helps so many kids.”