When I first learned about Acro Gymnast and K12 Student Sophia Handel, I looked her up online and watched some of her performance videos. I’m not sure my jaw has ever dropped that low. The athleticism, strength, and endurance exhibited by this student athlete is truly remarkable.

What further astounded me, though, is what I learned about her dedication and commitment during my interview with her. Sophia is a student at The George Washington University Online High School (GWUOHS), a premier online college preparatory school for students in grades 6–12. She had been attending a traditional brick-and-mortar private school, but as her training and competition demands became more intrusive to her schedule, she was finding it difficult to balance the hour drive to her gym, the hours of practice, and the hour drive back, which left her beginning her homework at 10 PM.

Sophia’s parents, Rita and Larry, began doing their homework and talking to other parents. How is a student supposed to balance both school and the rigorous demands of being a student athlete? Sophia was committed to succeeding in school, without compromising her dreams. So, what was the solution?

After much research, they decided to enroll Sophia at GWUOHS, with the caveat that if things weren’t working out after a month, they would re-enroll at her previous school. They shared concerns about her ability to manage her own schedule and workload without the framework of traditional schooling. Sophia also wondered if she would receive as much support from her new teachers. As a student who strives for academic excellence, she frequently met with her teachers to get additional help, so she was concerned about losing that connection.

After a couple weeks, Sophia found her rhythm and her worries were put to rest. She found her teachers to be extremely supportive, and Sophia’s parents were pleased with her ability to take responsibility for her schoolwork and connect with her teachers. Rita believes this is preparing Sophia well for the college learning environment.

If you’re considering an online school for your student athlete, Sophia’s mother advises that you should do your homework, talk to other families in the same situation, and find what works best for your family. Not every student is the same, but an online school can be an excellent alternative for students seeking a school that fits their busy schedule.

Student athletes are in a unique predicament. Do they fully pursue their dreams of professional sports careers or of being Olympic medalists at the expense of their academic success? Do they forgo their dreams and talents and focus solely on their schooling? How can a student do it all?

For Sophia, GWUOHS and online education were the perfect solutions for her. She has been able to continue working hard in her acro gymnastics training to the level of competing in world championships, appearing on America’s Got Talent, and performing for the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic trials—all while excelling in her classes and pursuing her goal of attending college.

Do you know a student athlete struggling to balance their demanding schedules and responsibilities? An online education may be just what is needed to help them chase after their dreams, achieve academic success, and win at life.

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