Article Submitted by Hillsboro Resident Dawn Phillips
Prairie City— Resilience and perseverance are the best way to describe the Godfrey twins. Kate and Jay Godfrey of Hillsboro, 18 years old, are both members of Oregon Connections Academy’s (ORCA) Class of 2022. Kate and Jay have experienced hurricanes, homelessness, and more struggles in recent years.
“I am incredibly proud to be the mom of these two amazing young adults,” said Katy Richer, Learning Coach and mother of the twins. “The challenges of natural disasters, cross country moves, and even a world-changing pandemic were real, but they kept smiling and kept going.”
Oregon Connections Academy, the state’s newest full-time virtual public charter school, was excited to celebrate its inaugural graduating class. Family, friends, and teachers gathered in Salem on Saturday, June 11th, for the school’s first commencement ceremony.
The Godfrey family lost everything in 2017 when they lived in Texas, and Hurricane Harvey struck, the second costliest after Hurricane Katrina. The Godfreys went to Florida to stay with relatives, but a couple of weeks later, Hurricane Irma, another record-breaking cyclone, hit the area.
When Katy Richer and her children came to Oregon a few years ago to stay with family members, the pandemic broke out, making education difficult for the kids.
“Switching between a traditional school being open and then closed and then open again was tough,” explained Katy Richer. “High school is hard under completely normal circumstances, much less with all the extra issues Covid brought. When we finally decided to enroll in Oregon Connections Academy, it was a huge relief for all of us because we knew their education was going to continue smoothly in the safety of our home.”
“My family and I felt unsafe with the Covid outbreak and desired a safer way to earn our diploma,” said Kate Godfrey. “This choice showed me that I have the drive and motivation to do great things, as my schooling was very important and I refused to let Covid or anything else stand in my way of success.”
Jay, Kate’s twin, agrees, “With Covid and a lot of social changes, my family decided it was best to go online to keep us out of harm’s way– both mentally and physically. When we decided on Oregon Connections Academy, we still wanted an interactive environment, but at a pace that my sister and I could deal with.”
Around 40 graduates are part of the Oregon Connections Academy Class of 2022. Within the graduating class, 41 percent plan to attend two- or four-year colleges or universities, 20 percent are going into the workforce, 7 percent plan to attend a vocational or trade school program, 7 percent are taking a gap year, while the remainder are headed for the military, or are undecided.
Kate is planning to attend Portland Community College with a major in Historical Arts using the Oregon Promise Grant. She works at a local clothing outlet and has a passion for fashion, which includes creating her own art through fabrics and textures.
“Oregon Connections Academy has readied me for college life through supported learning as well as an independent, self-paced work ethic that helped me as a student, feel in control of my education,” noted Kate. “I have managed to survive a lot more than this pandemic, and I took pride in my own devotion and learned not to fear the future ahead. Even with everything happening within the last few years,
I feel that Oregon Connections Academy was the best decision I made during this troubling time.”
Similar to Kate, Jay is also interested in a college degree in artistic history and a forensic scientist career. “I already had a passion for science and the justice system, so seeing the school’s Forensics class, I gladly took the opportunity to widen my horizons and interests.”
“We are so proud of how the Class of 2022 learned how to be resourceful and thrive during unprecedented challenges,” said Chris Long, Oregon Connections Academy School Leader. “Our graduates tailored their online learning experience in a way that worked best for them. I’m confident that self-motivation and dedication will help them achieve great things as they move on to the next chapter in their lives.”
Both students recommend the online school to other teens looking at options for their education. “Every teacher, counselor, and staff person was so helpful and made you feel like the most important person in the world to them,” said Jay. Sister Kate added, “It has such fun, but educational classes, and the teachers are so understanding and helpful. I believe in all my years of high school, this school year has been the least stressful and the most fun of them all!”
“I think we all appreciate the fact that they were able to receive an amazing education and finish out their high school credits during a very trying time with Covid going on,” said mom Katy Richer.
Oregon Connections Academy opened its virtual doors in February of 2021 under a charter with the Prairie City School District. This was the first school year high school students were eligible to enroll.
Oregon Connections Academy delivers a best-in-class curriculum taught by state-certified teachers that are specially trained to bring their skills and personality to the virtual classroom while fostering meaningful connections with students.
Each student who comes to Oregon Connections Academy has their own interests, needs and education histories. Some students benefit from the ability to work at a different pace from their peers, while others prefer individualized attention and support from teachers. The online program also offers more flexibility for students who have health issues or activities outside school.
Oregon Connections Academy is enrolling students for the 2022-2023 school year. Free informational webinars are available for prospective families and students who want to learn more about the engaging online education program. For a complete schedule and to sign up for one of the webinars please go to OregonConnectionsAcademy.com/events.
To learn more about the school call 800-382-6010 or visit the school’s website OregonConnectionsAcademy.com
About Oregon Connections Academy
Oregon Connections Academy is a unique, tuition-free, online public school for K-12 students across Oregon. Authorized by the Prairie City School District but overseen by its own governing board and school leadership, Oregon Connections Academy offers a high-quality educational experience that keeps students motivated and engaged in a safe, virtual learning environment. In addition to academics, teachers focus on emotional well-being and social development, working closely with families to help students learn how they learn best. Here, students gain the skills and confidence they need to direct their own educational journey, learning to thrive in the real world by first learning how to be resourceful and resilient. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit www.OregonConnectionsAcademy.com.