In this episode, Sage Oak student, Sonja Allen, shares how the Virtual Learning Academy model helps her balance accelerated classes, a demanding competitive swimming schedule, and her mental health.
Sonja shares how she leans on her teachers for support by taking advantage of office hours. In addition to maintaining her schedule of 8th grade core classes, Sonja is also taking a high school class in Spanish. She is hoping to continue learning at an accelerated pace next year by taking community college courses in high school.
Thank you for listening to the Sage Studio podcast presented by Sage Oak Charter Schools and hosted by Tiffiny Webster, M.A.Ed. We invite you to follow the show and leave your review below. Sage Oak Charter Schools is an independent study nonclassroom based TK-12 personalized learning public charter school serving students in Southern California. Visit sageoak.education for more information.
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Welcome to another episode of the Sage Studio. I'm Tiffiny, and today I am joined with one of our VLA students. Her name is Sonja Allen, and I am so excited to share her story with you. Sonja is not only a great student, but she's also an athlete. and she's also taken some accelerated courses. I'm not going to get into all the details. I'm going to let her share her story with you, but it's going to be a good one. So Sonja, thank you so much for being here today. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited. I love when I get to talk to students. It's so fun. Okay, so let's start with this. Tell our listeners a little bit about what grade you're in and how long you've been here at Sage Oak. Yeah, so I'm 13 years old and I'm turning 14 in September. Nice. I'm in eighth grade and this is my second year attending Sage Oak. Okay. I really love the program because I feel it's very accommodating to any extra things that I want to do and I also like that they have lots of options for advanced courses. Okay. So I also really enjoyed that. So let me back it up just a little bit. So you're in our virtual learning program, which means that you're attending classes with an instructor three days a week, and then you have a couple days a week that are your independent study days where you can pick up your assignments or finish up with you're working on. And so have you been in that program for both years? Yes, both years. I. Did the VLA program. Okay. So you really love it? Yeah. That is so good. I'm so glad that you love it. What do you like most about it? I love that I have teachers that I can talk to mm-hmm. about anything, any questions that I need. And I also love that I have some days to just do my work and I have like more free time. Mm-hmm., but I also have optional like office hours and stuff if I still have questions. So, I, I like the structure, like a normal school for three days a week, and then having two days to just kind of do my own work and having an option of asking questions. I like that too. I think it's a really nice blend, right? Because you feel like, okay, I get the support that I need. I get the instruction I need, but then you also have the time that you need to just work on your own or do some of those extracurricular things that you were talking about. Exactly. Yeah. Okay. So let's get to the juicy part. So we know that the work is going well for you when you're working in the Virtual Learning Academy with your teachers, but tell us about the things that you are doing outside of school. So outside of school, I'm a swimmer competitively year round. And then, I have like lots of things that I just like to do. Like I love to hang out with my friends. I love go to the beach and they're just normal teenager things. Yeah. But swim is a big part of my life, so it kind of takes up most of my time outside of school. Hmm. So, most weekends I'm at swim meets or practicing because I have practice on the weekends in the morning. Okay. So it's kind of like part of me now now that , how big it's become in my life. So, yeah. Yeah, I could imagine. I mean, if you're a competitive swimmer, that must take hours and hours of practice, and then you're saying then the meat's on top of it. I would say it's really consuming. Are you swimming every single day? I do swim every single day, sometimes twice a day. Okay. And on days that I don't have the option to swim twice a day, I do workouts, dryland workouts at my house or at the gym. For three days a week, there's morning practice and then plus optional Saturday morning practice and then. on the other two days, there's just normal evening practice and then I like to work out on top of it, so. Wow. Okay. So that is a lot of work that you're doing outside of just the school work that you're working on. So you have your VLA instruction that you do three days a week, and then you're doing two a day practices. So when you're, when you're having to do that on the days that you're going to school, when are you doing your workouts? I mean, are you getting up at six in the morning? Yeah, , so, so I also love about the VLA program. We don't start till nine. Okay. So I have a good amount of time in the morning to just kind of do whatever. So for Wednesday I have the morning practice, which Ihave to get up at 4:
30 for. Oh my goodness. But on Tuesday and Thursday I just wake up at a reasonable time.Well, more reasonable than 4:
30 yes. Okay. Before school. And that gives me enough time to work out and then eat enough. Mm-hmm., and then go to school and get enough work done. So when you were in a different program prior to switching to Sage Oak, were you doing this much working out? No, no. I mean, I, I like how could you, with that other type of schedule, was that one of the main reasons why you came to Sage Oak? Yeah. One of the main reasons that I came is because I needed more time to do all the stuff than I need to do to be at the level I want to be in swimming. But I've also I also just wanted more free time because with Swim I don't have any free time and I kind of need that for like my mental health than just yes myself in general. I didn't have enough time to work out or do literally anything other than swim and school. So you feel like the flexibility of Sage Oak is really giving you that balance between all of those facets of your life, like being a teenager, having just some downtime, getting your work done and doing your swim, like all those parts of you. Oh, for sure. It's helped me. with my time management skills. A lot. Oh, I bet, right? Because you have to be pretty strategic about sticking to a schedule, I would imagine, in order to get everything done. What, what is your schedule like? Like what, what kind of time management tips and tricks do you use? Well, I try and keep a planner and, or even the calendar on my phone just to keep me with knowing what I'm going to do. Well that is so great that you already know some of the tools that you can use to help you stay on pace and to help you schedule things out because that will be so helpful for you. You know, going forward next year as your high school schedule gets even a little bit tougher and probably, I would imagine your swimming schedule's going to get tougher, or the competition's going to get tougher. You're going to have to work out in a different way too. So those time management strategies that you're applying now are really going to help you going forward. Exactly. Speaking of, you know, kind of what you are thinking about doing next year, I mean, you're already starting to take high school classes even though you are in middle school. Tell us a little bit about what you're up to as far as that goes. Yeah, so, I take f our of my classes, just normal eighth grade classes, but I'm taking high school Spanish. Okay. So I take high school Spanish one A and one B this year, so that I only need one more credit, I think, for Spanish to graduate high school. Mm-hmm.. But I want to continue anyway, to just keep my Spanish at a good level for just for me in general. So Spanish is my high school course for this year. That is so awesome. So not only are you achieving, you know, outside of school with your swimming, but you are totally achieving in school with some of the accelerated courses that you're taking. I mean, taking a high school course when you're in middle school is pretty cool. I love that. And I love that you are so passionate about learning Spanish. Where does that come? Well, basically, so originally I, I went to a Spanish immersion school. So they taught me all my normal level stuff in Spanish. Okay. To teach it to me. So I started in kindergarten and it was a hundred percent, they only spoke to me in Spanish, and I actually remember the first day I went there and she told me something in Spanish, and I looked at her and I was, I literally thought to myself, I was like, what is she saying?, what doing? But then I developed enough like level of Spanish to, in fifth grade it was about 60 40%. Okay. 60% Spanish, 40% English. Okay. So that I have both skills for when I go into middle school. That is so great. And so I love that you are taking all of that experience and instead of being like, okay, that's good, I, I got a little Spanish. You're like, no way I'm putting my foot on the gas. I'm going to maximize this. And let's just start moving in and checking off those, those high school graduation requirements. And you're right students that are in our high school program, if they are on like a college prep pathway, then they need two years of Spanish in order to meet those college admission requirements. So, you are going into high school with a year of high school credit, which is pretty awesome. What is kind of the game plan? You said that you want to study more Spanish in high school. Do you think that you'll maybe take advantage of some college courses while you're in high school? Have you thought about that yet? Yes. I made this list. and it had what I wanted to do each year so I could graduate early because I, because I want to graduate high school early. I want to do college courses in high school so that I can get both the college and high school credit. Yeah. So I was thinking maybe I could do that for Spanish. If there's no more like high school Spanish, I could., so then I get both credits. Yeah. So yeah, you're going to keep this trend going. So you're going to be in high school and you're going to take advantage of taking some of the accelerated classes through a community college so that that way you can earn high school credit and college credit at the same time. And the cool thing is, is that with Sage Oak, you know, you have to meet certain requirements in order to graduate early. And that includes being prepared for college. So if you can work at an accelerated pace, take some of those community college courses while you're in high school, that's definitely going to fulfill that requirement for you to be ready and able to graduate early. That's pretty awesome that you've got that plan and that you're motivated. Now let's talk about swimming. Where does swimming fit into your high school and college plan? Well, I'm pretty sure my swim schedule will stay the same for high school, but when I do enter high school, some of the meets will probably get harder and like I'll probably have to work even harder. So, yeah, I bet you're right.. I am just going to try and use my time management skills that I've learned about to kind of fit that in. Cause I know high school's going to be a lot harder to do and manage with swimming. Mm-hmm.. So I, that's why I plan on staying with, Sage Oak for high school because I feel like I can manage everything a lot easier. Mm-hmm. with the schedules that I have at Sage Oak for sure. And do you plan on swimming in college? Yeah, I do. I do want to swim in college. I don't know if I'll be able to, but I really want to it's one of my goals. Mm-hmm. for. in the long term. Yeah. It's one of my long term goals. Yeah. Well that's awesome. And you know, we have a program at, Sage Oak for students that are wanting to pursue athletics in college and it's our NCAA program and we have a counselor in our high school department that works with the colleges to make sure that our students are, you know, completing all the courses in a way that's required in order for them to be eligible to play sports at a collegiate level. So that's definitely something that we can help you with going forward. And some of our student athletes have gotten some major scholarships to go to school and to do the sports they love. So that would be pretty cool if that happened for you as well. That's so awesome. I was totally looking into that and I was telling my mom about it. Yeah. I was, we were definitely thinking about joining that for high school. Yeah. That's great. So exciting. Okay, so you've got all of this going on with Swim. You have all of this accelerated learning going on with your Spanish. Sounds like you have this really great plan to continue to work on your high school courses next year and be on a pace to graduate early. Where does this motivation come from? What inspires you? Well, there are people that inspire me too. There are things that inspire me, but I feel like the people around me are all very supportive and inspiring people. Mm-hmm.. Both my parents are super inspiring and they kind of help me with my work ethic in a way. Okay, nice. They help, they help me like learn how to keep going. Mm. Even when it gets like super hard because it is not easy. I'm going to be a hundred percent honest. like it's, it's hard to manage and I feel like it's my parents and my sister and my grandma, they all have something there that helped me with that. Uhhuh and then also my swim coach, honestly because he helped me so recently when I turned 13, the swim cuts all got harder and I had a hard time having my same motivation and he really helped me with getting it back and remembering how much I love to race and remembering how much I want to do it. So I feel like all those, all of these people in my life really helped me with that. And I also feel like remembering how much I love it and how much I've loved all the past experiences with Swim, I feel like also really keep me going and keep me wanting it. Mm-hmm. more than just thinking about oh, it's going to get me to college or whatever. It's also it's really a fun experience and it's fun to.. It's fun to have the journey, you know? Yeah. And not just thinking about where it's going to get me. That is such a healthy, wonderful perspective, and I'm so glad you shared that, that it really it's your inner fulfillment. Like it fulfills your soul and it brings you joy and you love getting in the pool and racing and that whole feeling. And that is really what's motivating you more than some outside goal, like getting into a certain school or achieving some sort of record. So you're really enjoying it for the sport and for the challenge and, and for the joy that it brings you. So that's really cool to see. And I, I think a lot of students are going to get a lot from hearing your story and from your perspective. So thank you so much for sharing that. That makes me so happy that I can like impact. Cause I never really thought I could, but you know, this kinda, you definitely can. Yeah, for sure. I.. I bet there's kids out there who were considering this, but they maybe weren't like, sure, how does it all work? Like, how can I do both? You know, how do I, go to school? And then when I get into high school, it gets even a little bit more challenging. But I really love being in a sport, but it takes so much time. What would you say to someone who's thinking about continuing to pursue sports at a competitive level while also attending school? I would say just make sure you keep your love and passion for whatever you're doing, because it's supposed to be fun. Mm-hmm., it's supposed to fill your soul with happiness. You know, it's supposed to be a fun thing that you're doing, and it shouldn't be causing you stress. So if you keep a good mindset and you make sure that you know, , how much you love it and how much you want to do it. Then I feel like you can keep going because you're not stressing yourself out about it. You're just really enjoying what's going on. Yeah. So I feel like if you keep a good mind, I feel like mindset is everything. Mm-hmm. for me specifically, because if I have a good mindset, then I'm in a good place to just keep working towards my goals. So awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. I just love your perspective. How much you love your sport. I love that our program is supporting you in your competitive swimming and your accelerated learning. I think it's incredible. I'm so glad to hear that you feel so connected to the Virtual Learning Academy and to the teachers there. It doesn't surprise me the least because they're a great staff and I bet they enjoy you just as much. So thanks so much for being here today and for sharing your story. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it. All right, we'll talk to you soon. Bye Sonja. Bye.