Nicola Peck, a senior attending Apex Learning Virtual School, has never looked at her schoolwork as something she had to do.
“I’ve just enjoyed learning my entire life,” Nicola said. “I put a lot of time and effort into my schoolwork, especially in elementary school, and that predisposed me to develop a passion for knowledge.”
And Nicola is certainly not one to do her assignments simply to get an A.
“I have always viewed my assignments as an opportunity to hone my skills and actively improve,” she said. “I try to think about learning as an opportunity to improve in areas where I am not as strong, thereby making me a better student.”
Her unusual approach may be attributed to her father, an academic.
“Being around my father and his professorial lectures has certainly had a strong influence on me,” she said. “He has always encouraged me to be a self-learner and approach school from the teacher’s perspective. He emphasized how important it was to truly master the content and understand what I was learning – not just prioritize the grade I could earn.”
Nicola first started taking ALVS courses her senior year, after her family moved from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois. If she had attended public school, she would not have been able to graduate on time. She was also battling her own health challenges.
“When I was a sophomore, I became incredibly sick and was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Persistent Postural-Perceptual Dizziness, or PPPD, which causes chronic vertigo and vision impairment,” she said. “I missed half of my sophomore year and battled chronic absences during my junior year. While balancing my health, AP classes, and extracurricular leadership positions during junior year, I also had to attend physical therapy for vertigo four times per week, which was a significant distance away. With all of those commitments, I neglected my at-home daily physical therapy exercises, which prevented my health from improving.”
But when Nicola switched to ALVS her senior year, she began taking better care of herself. She now gets nine hours of sleep every night and has time to do physical therapy every day.
“Taking online classes was not my first choice,” she said. “It worked out due to sheer circumstance. But I have had a wonderful experience with ALVS courses – many of which are stronger than the public-school classes I took previously.”
In particular, Nicola found that AP English was much more focused on writing at ALVS. At her previous school, she only completed a few essays throughout the course of a semester that were limited to the skills required for the AP exam.
“At ALVS, there are a million essays to complete and so many opportunities to improve,” she said. “At my previous school, I would almost always get a 100 percent on my essays, but my ALVS English teacher, Mrs. Becker, always shares feedback. She comments about what was good, but she will also share how I can improve. She pushes me to be a better writer. I really appreciate that, and my writing has really improved a lot this year because of it.”
Nicola also shared that in her physics honors class she was asked to complete a research review on whether or not cell phone radiation is correlated to brain cancer.
“I had to review multiple studies in research journals and develop a paper using APA style that articulated my arguments,” she said. “I talked to a friend who is attending a really good private school, and her science courses never required a research review. The rigor required at ALVS provides academic experiences some students may not tackle until college.”
Recently, Nicola landed a remarkable 1540 on the SAT. Now she is deciding between multiple full tuition scholarships from universities across the country, and one day she plans to open a clinical psychology practice.
“I have really enjoyed my experience at ALVS,” she said. “But most importantly, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to focus on my health and ALVS has given me the time I needed to heal. I don’t know what my future holds, but I will continue to challenge myself and pursue new opportunities to learn.”