BFFs—Being the Difference.
It is no secret that critics of cyber school education like to spread the misconception that students miss out on the socialization and relationship-building opportunities found in brick-and-mortar schools. Well, two Agora fifth graders, Isabella and Devin, show just how powerful a cyber school bond can be. They do it not through loud speeches or detailed editorials, but by doing what kids do best—simply pursuing what makes them happy, then sharing that happiness with others.
The story of Isabella and Devin begins with their enrollment at Agora as kindergartners, which occurred in the same year for both of them. Although the two of them did not meet immediately, they instantly became part of the Agora community of students, families, and faculty. In addition to their classroom education, they learned how to make connections throughout this community and carved out their own ways to utilize Agora’s programming to start new relationships. As Isabella and Devin progressed through kindergarten then first grade, they made a lot of friends at school. But it was not until the very first day of their second-grade year that their lives changed in a way all of our lives change when we find that one special person who we know will be part of us forever. It started with a get-to-know-you slide presentation that their teacher used on the first day of school. Isabella and Devin exchanged phone numbers as a result of the activity, and since then, the two have epitomized the term “BFF”.
In traditional brick-and-mortar school circumstances, the odds of Isabella and Devin ever meeting were zero-to-none! But Agora made the 130 miles between the two families inconsequential. With Isabella living in the semi-rural community of Green Lane and Devin living on a very rural 30 acres in Newville, the two connected on not being “city kids,” found they shared a love for farming and even started planning for a future in which Isabella will own a farm and Devin will care for the animals.
“My friendship with Isabella means a lot to me,” said Devin. “I’ve learned to be more open with others. I was always hiding in the corner of class. Any time I have news, I go running to my mom for the phone to call Isabella.”
“Devin is the coolest kid in class and I tell him everything,” said Isabella. “We count down the days until we see each other. Our friendship makes school even more exciting.”
In the little over three years that have passed since the two first met, Isabella and Devin have shared quite a variety of experiences and to this day continue to discover new things about each other and ways to add new dimensions to their friendship. Agora is proud that many of their in- and out-of-classroom opportunities supported this. For example, Isabella and Devin always made sure to pair up for partner projects and schoolwork. Devin tutored Isabella in fractions, and he tutored her sister in English Language Arts. In fourth grade they got involved in the elementary gaming club. Being familiar with the cyber school format even “rubbed off” last Thanksgiving when the friends enjoyed holiday dinner together virtually. The best friends have also worked to stay connected through more traditional means of communications including phone calls (almost every day!) and mailing gifts to each other for holidays, birthdays and “just because.” So far, they’ve also had three in-person meetings—at a midway point for a skating outing, at Isabella’s home in Green Lane, and in Devin’s in Newville.
This special friendship between Isabella and Devin has spurred additional relationships as well. It wasn’t long before their moms struck up a friendship with each other which led to both families—parents and many children between them—having a relationship and planning meetings in person.
“Their paths and our paths never would have crossed without Agora Cyber Charter,” said Isabella’s mother, Linsey, whose other daughter, Ivy is also an Agora student. “People would ask me, ‘how are you going to socialize your kids there?’ People are amazed Isabella actually met her best friend at Agora. They talk about anything and everything and always want to share with each other.”
Linsey also shares other attributes of Agora that she values for her family including being able to “take school with them” if they are on the road, the challenging curriculum, the way students are taught things that will be meaningful for their future, the personalized learning, and time teachers invest in learning about each student as an individual.
“Isabella and Devin very much have the same personality, they have similar energies,” said Devin’s mother, Courtney. “Having great friendships in a virtual environment is possible and it’s important for parents to encourage this communication too. A lot can grow from the opportunities Agora offers.”
Courtney, who currently has four children enrolled at Agora, and three who have graduated, had always been driven to home-schooling her children but knew the challenges of staying on task. She appreciates the team effort on which Agora is based and the ways it has made her more accountable, as well as the ways the family structure supports education and offers a safer, more controlled environment.
As for what’s next for Isabella and Devin, well, their circle is growing! Many other schoolmates see the friendship they have and are inspired by it—hoping to learn from it and experience something similar. Consequently, the two have made many more close friends at Agora. However, nothing can touch a relationship as strongly rooted or special as the one they have with each other.
“He is like my sibling,” said Isabella.
“She is like a sister,” said Devin.