Father/Son Duo: #AgoraProud
Thriving at Agora from the Start: A Decade Together for Dad and Son
When graduating senior Liger Calabro finished his second-grade year at a brick-and-mortar school, his family had some decisions to make about his educational future. Like so many kids, Liger dealt with some bullying, but he was also identified as a “gifted” student. The Calabros felt that Liger was not being challenged in school and would not grow as a learner. Steve Calabro, Parent Engagement Advisor at Agora and father of Liger had experience working as an Agora teacher and Family Coach, so he knew a cyber education could work. The Calabro family decided that Agora’s curriculum was a better fit, and Liger made the switch for third grade. “Instantly, he started thriving and accelerating his learning,” said Steve.
Following His Own Path
As a student at Agora for 10 years, Liger has loved how the curriculum challenges him. “My first scholastic experience was restrictive and not conducive to students reaching where they could. At Agora, I have customized my education, and I’ve always been able to go to any teacher for help,” Liger said. Whether it was skipping fourth grade, taking algebra a year early in eighth grade or taking advantage of Agora’s selection of 80 electives to ensure that a future in computer science is what he wants, Liger feels prepared for college next year at Penn State’s Main Campus. “Agora really prepares you for life after high school by teaching you to make the most of your downtime. How to use time most efficiently and what to do with your gaps is important. Plus, I got to take a course like AP Computer Science, which solidified what I wanted to do next.”
As Parent Engagement Advisor, Steve sees how the same post-high-school preparation applies to all students at Agora, whether that means vocational training, college or straight into a career. “The possibilities students have for career options are great. Agora offers so much flexibility with career exploration, and it is very reassuring as a parent to know your student isn’t just guessing on their future but using experience to inform their decision.” Liger also took electives like Java, digital art and sound, and may head to PSU with additional credits.
The Agora Difference
Steve has an interesting perspective on the importance of the relationship between families and Agora. “As both a parent and staff member, I have always been a strong advocate for strengthening the partnership between school and home, and I work from that perspective in all my roles.” Instant access to grades is crucial, and communication with teachers allows both students and the Learning Coach to know what is coming next. “I don’t wait until the end of a quarter for an update. I know the instant there is a struggle, in real time.”
For Liger, who is an asynchronous student but still attends all his live classes, the flexibility has been incredible. “I have learned at a pace that is great for me and allows me to plan even better. Anytime I have my computer, I can access my course content. I am not limited to being at a physical school. It is always there, even while on vacation. In fact, I didn’t miss a day of school when we were at a wedding in Florida.”
While noting that cyber education will not work for everyone, Steve said, “There are a group of students who can be educated in a more meaningful way, and people do not fully understand the incredible education that cyber can provide.” Avoiding distractions is a major advantage for cyber charter students, who are free to be themselves. “It is hard to learn when school social drama is at the forefront of a young student’s mind. In this environment, bullying is eliminated, and school time is spent on education. But most importantly, a ZIP code does not dictate your education. Students are free to separate from the buckets they might have been placed in.”
The Calabros are a family that also appreciates brick-and-mortar education, so the decision was always about which model would suit Liger’s education best. “It was clear that Agora’s cyber model was the right choice, and the results speak for themselves,” continued Steve. “Obviously, students can learn this way!”
Leaving a Legacy and Saying Goodbye
As is so often the case with Agora students, the time they receive back in their schedule each day from not having to deal with buses or recess or class travel time adds up and means additional time for extracurricular activities. This is no different for Liger, who, along with being the expert of his church’s A/V team, helped start Agora’s E-Sports club. Steve took on the responsibility as a head coach, and Liger was captain of Agora’s E-Sports Rocket League team. “It was a cool experience to get in on the ground floor and shape what it could be,” said Liger. “Being in that first group and having something to show for it makes me proud, and finding others who were into the same passion was an amazing experience. Making friends across the state was a great part of it too.”
The team made the playoffs both years and finished eighth out of 23 teams in the regular season this year. The game, which Liger and Steve played when it first came out years earlier, opened a great opportunity for the two to bond even more. “I hadn’t intended on coaching, but I had experience with the game and Liger really wanted to do it. Being his coach and working with a passionate group of kids competing on a national level across the country was a wonderful experience,” said Steve. “E-Sports is a great opportunity for students and allows them to compete and be part of a team, with the camaraderie that comes with that. It is gratifying to see them representing Agora and playing against students from across the country.”
While saying goodbye to his school-day buddy will be bittersweet, Steve and his wife, Jamie, couldn’t be prouder of Liger. “He has worked really hard and has taken advantage of the opportunities available at Agora. We have been able to watch him grow, overcome struggles, break ground and reach his highest potential. It has been a true privilege to be a part of his journey as his Learning Coach. I am definitely going to miss having him here each day, but I can’t wait to see what he is going to achieve in the future.”