From Struggling Student to Accomplished Alum
Student Success

From Struggling Student to Accomplished Alum

By: Matthew Hartzell, Alumnus of K12-Powered School

At age six, I started kindergarten as an excited, nervous little kid. Six years later, at 12, I started preparing for high school. Again, I was an excited, nervous, slightly older little kid. 

Academically, I was ready for the challenges of high school, and I eagerly looked forward to harder assignments and more rigorous classes—but socially and emotionally, I was still only 12, and I was terrified of going to school with the bigger, older kids. My parents and I began to look into alternative options and eventually settled on Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA) as the solution to ensuring that I would be challenged as a high-achieving student, but wouldn't face the social isolation that we were concerned I would face at a brick-and-mortar school.

Gearing up for my new high school, I was floating on confidence fed from years of moving through  school at an accelerated pace without much resistance. Once I started AZVA, I quickly realized that false sense of superiority was not going to carry me through my rigorous coursework, and I faced school with an increasing level of self-doubt. 

Teetering on the brink of throwing in the towel altogether, I had a conversation with my parents about my commitment to my education. In the coming weeks, I started reaching out to my teachers more, managing my time more thoughtfully, and committing myself to being more organized as I worked through my assignments. My parents reminded me that my coursework was my responsibility, and it was up to me to make the most of this opportunity. Within the first month, it was like a lightbulb went off, and I jumped at the chance to actually learn and grow at a higher level.   

After coming to this realization, I began to settle into school and came to love the faster, more challenging pace of my coursework. With the accelerated pace, I connected more with my teachers to make sure I had a grasp on certain nuances of the material and was staying organized and on track to success. My student government teacher worked with me on developing good organizational skills and time management. My English teacher helped me understand how to receive and learn from constructive criticism. My principal regularly checked in with me to make sure I was on track and became one of my strongest cheerleaders over the years. Six years after graduating, I still cannot believe the team I had behind me during those challenging years.

Today, I'm the lead loan engineer at Autobahn Mortgage in Scottsdale, Arizona. I spend my days working with folks on complicated deals ranging from a first-time home purchase or a refinancing—deals that require me to communicate effectively, manage my time, and think strategically about how to best support the families I work with. I think daily about the skills I developed at AZVA by being an online, high-achieving learner and know that I wouldn't be where I am today without the opportunities I had. 

To my parents, teachers, and administrators, thank you all for helping me through the self-doubt that almost held me back. And, to all the other high-achievers out there, don't limit yourself academically by being concerned about fitting in socially. There are a multitude of options for you to learn, grow, and thrive—get out there and choose what's right for you. I still sometimes think of myself as an excited, nervous, slightly older kid, but the difference today is that I can pair excitement and occasional nerves with independence, focus, and drive—valuable skills I'll appreciate for the rest of my life.  


KEYWORDS: Advanced Placement, Flexibility, High Achievers, Personalized Learning, Results, Student Stories, Unlocking Potential, Student Success

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