Students meet, dance at prom for online high schools - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Students meet, dance at prom for online high schools

June 5th, 2017 development
Students meet, dance at prom for online high schools
Sports and Recreation

By Colleen Sparks

High school proms can be exciting events, full of anticipation, as teens get glammed up and plan elegant evenings with dates and friends months ahead of time. But imagine going to the big dance when you have never met any of your peers face-to-face.

That was the case for many teens who attended the Arizona Virtual Academy and Insight Academy of Arizona Prom May 20 at the Chandler Boys & Girls Club on East Chandler Boulevard. Students at those schools take their classes online rather than going to a traditional campus and sitting in classrooms with other teens.

About 90 students, in grades nine through 12, danced the night away and talked to their peers and teachers, many of whom they had chatted with online and on the phone but never met in person.

Some students felt awkward at first, but once they broke the ice and a DJ got them involved in group dances to the “Y.M.C.A.” and “Cupid Shuffle,” the teens bonded and had fun, Autumn Litz, 12th-grade advisor at Arizona Virtual Academy, said.

“It really is the typical prom,” Litz said. “The only difference is the students really don’t know each other. They talk; they know what’s going on in each other’s lives. They learn to form deeper relationships before seeing a person. I’ve seen that be incredibly cool.”

Girls wore sparkly formal dresses and guys wore suits, and a prom king, queen, prince and princess were crowned at the big dance. Students came from all over the state to the event, with the prince and king’s crowns bearing jewels and nods to the prom’s “Candyland” theme.

Brianna Manier, 17, a junior at Arizona Virtual Academy, made the crowns using metal wire and jewels and decorated the space for the big night. The student government president relished the sweet night full of dancing, a chocolate fountain and socializing.

“We all got to know each other more,” Manier said. “It was just an amazing time. We had fun. We danced. We got to socialize on another level. It was a cool experience to meet my fellow friends, who I’ve met through the school, to be able to go, ‘Oh, this is the person who I talked with about the project.’”

She said some students were a little shy so she walked up to them to talk and made new friends. Manier’s been attending the tuition-free K-12 Arizona Virtual Academy since she was in seventh grade, mainly because she was bullied often at a traditional brick-and-mortar school.

Manier’s not alone. Litz said many of the students who attend the virtual school were bullied at their previous schools. Some of them are models or actors who are busy working and need the flexibility of online classes. Other students are behind or ahead of their peers in the curriculum or need different attention from teachers than they find in a traditional school.

Teachers talk on the phone frequently with students and sometimes the youths meet for field trips and other outings. Arizona Virtual Academy students live in Chandler, Tempe and other areas of the East Valley, as well as Prescott, Payson, Safford and Show Low.

Insight Academy of Arizona serves students in grades 7-12 online.

“We have a population of students who are very kind and non-judgmental and very accepting,” Litz said. “That really shows itself in the prom atmosphere. Everybody’s just really excited to be there and to kind of be a part of this. I know how much the kids love it. I don’t want them to miss out on any experiences because they choose online.”