My name is Julia Larsen, and I am a senior in the Virginia Virtual Academy (VAVA) for the 2019-20 school year. Enrolling in this full-time virtual school has been one of the best decisions of my academic journey. I appreciate the choice and flexibility that being in an online school has given me. When I apply myself, school consistently, and work diligently, I can take control of my free time and seek to travel and make lifelong memories. It’s crazy to imagine how far I’ve come since joining the VAVA family in fourth grade. I am so excited to finish this chapter of my life with the secure foundation VAVA has given me and face college with high hopes and greater expectations.
As all of you know, we have officially started another stellar school year. I was so privileged to be able to join my mother, Kari Larsen, and travel with her to VAVA’s six Regional Back-to-School events held in cities all over the state: Chesapeake, Richmond, Bristol, Roanoke, Charlottesville, and Warrenton. Every day showed us a beautiful new city and so many amazing families just itching to learn and experience the VAVA difference. Bonds of friendship were forged, and numerous students could visit the teachers they’ll be working with for the rest of the year. Families with overflowing questions about how best to navigate the virtual school could find welcome support with VAVA’s helpful staff and our veteran families.
There was something for everyone at every event. As parents signed in, our students joined us in an interactive game with sweet incentives to meet and greet their fellow learners. Equipped with specific questions to ask a particular grade-level student or staff member, students dispersed in search of a VAVA match, thus starting verbal exchanges and breaking some of those initial barriers. We continued with two additional candy ice breakers and learned many tips and more interesting facts about our fellow students. Families were also given the opportunity to share and ask questions in an exchange with VAVA staff and returning families. We concluded with a craft for our younger students to showcase their school spirit and a pennant design challenge for our middle and high schoolers – giving our older students an opportunity to test their creative limits and stretch their imagination.
At each event we introduced and talked about the “VAVA Cares” program. We provided bins to collect items that will provide community support, and these will continue to be a staple at our future all-school events throughout the year. Families were also invited and encouraged to join forces within their regional areas to enrich, enhance, explore, and expand our community across the state – inside and out – with additional, future engagement options, projects, events, and opportunities.
I am truly excited for the start of this school year because VAVA will now offer 12th grade for the first time in school history. I am proud that I can be counted as one of the first high school graduates from VAVA, and I cannot wait to celebrate this accomplishment with my fellow Seniors. It was great to meet so many new and returning families who really value their student’s education. It’s a conscious commitment and one we don’t have to make alone or without support. I know I would not be here nine years later if it wasn’t for all the amazing teachers and staff at VAVA who helped me gain confidence, abilities, and skills I will continue to use in pursuit of my higher education and in life. Thank you, VAVA!