A dancer pursues her passion, thanks to online learning

Photo of Sarah Cabigas

“I started dancing when I was three years old, after my little brother was born, because I needed an outlet.  And then it turned into this thing that I had a real passion for,” said Sarah Cabigas, a senior at Visions In Education, an independent study public charter school in California.

When Sarah was in elementary school, she and her parents realized that a traditional school wasn’t the best fit for her. “The schedule that public school offered me didn’t give me enough time to go to ballet classes, and the time that I could have used to be creative and have fun was taken up by homework,” she explained. “So in 5th grade we started homeschooling.  And it was the best decision we ever made.”

Since then, she’s stayed at Visions, first attending the homeschool program and then its University Prep Academy for high school students. Now she’s able to balance her high school requirements with her passion for dance because of the flexibility of online learning.

She loves taking classes on her own schedule but acknowledges that it requires a student to have good time-management skills, skills she also needs in dance. “I’m also a teacher at my studio and a choreographer, so I know I have to meet my deadlines. I’ve learned that if someone asks you to do something and you’re able to do it, you should always follow through,” she said.

Sarah takes online classes, but is able to connect with teachers and students on a regular basis. “You’re assigned a teacher and you have face-to-face meetings every couple of weeks, so you can catch up and the teacher can tell you, ‘Ok, you need to work on this,’ and help you stay on track,” she said, adding that it is also easy to communicate with teachers by email whenever she has a question.

Collaboration with other students is also easy, Sarah said. “Just recently, seniors had to participate in a live debate for our American Government class. Since students live in so many different places in California, it wasn’t possible for us to physically meet to have our debate. So instead, we used Google Hangouts!” This free online tool allows students to video conference with each other in real time, which helps them feel connected. Sarah added, “The group projects and Google Hangouts also enabled me to make new friends! Sometimes doing school by yourself can get pretty lonesome, but being able to ‘meet’ the girls in my debate group through Google Hangouts was really nice.”

Her classes use GradPoint®, a set of online courses and services now part of the Pearson Connexus™ suite of offerings, and Sarah likes how the online learning courses make it simple to do her school work. She said, “I like how easy it is to view and complete the assignments. The design is simple but functional, and it’s easy to navigate through one course to the next.”

Her favorite feature, though, is the “What If” calculator that helps her stay on track. “I can easily see what grades I need to get to reach my goal at the end of each semester,” she shared. She also appreciates how grades are calculated immediately, reducing the stress of waiting for an assignment to be graded.

Photo of Sarah CabigasAs a senior, she’s now starting to plan for the next phase of her life, which will bring some big changes. “It’s my last year at the studio, which is kind of sad for me,” she said. She hopes to stay involved with dance as an instructor or choreographer, but she is focusing on a different, though related, career goal: set design for photo shoots, movies, and runway shows.

Her plan is well on track, as she shared that she’s already been accepted into the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, her first-choice design school, in San Francisco. She is thrilled to have had the chance to meet her high school requirements through online learning, allowing her to explore her interests and complete her education on her own terms. The experience has also helped her prepare for the future. She said, “It’s taught me so much about time management, meeting deadlines, all the stuff that I’m going to need when I go to college and out into the real world.”