Congratulations to a Powerhouse Group of Seniors

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ASU Prep Digital Hosts Senior Awards Ceremony

On May 22, 2023 the ASU Prep Digital team hosted a Senior Awards Ceremony via Zoom to honor “a powerhouse group of seniors,” as referred to by Amy McGrath, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Vice President of ASU Educational Outreach.

The event opened with a slideshow of the award recipients’ photos and selected senior quotes and then Michelle Ugalde, Learning Success Coach Manager, welcomed everyone “in attendance,” including students, families, friends and staff. 

Ms. McGrath opened the ceremony, marking its significance, “This is a momentous occasion. It’s a total landmark for our seniors and for our ASU Prep Digital story of growth.” She went on to make note of the 2,091 college credits earned by the graduating class. Also earned: a jaw-dropping 5.8 million dollars in scholarships. 

McGrath called the ceremony, “A moment to celebrate the hard work, the dedication, and the perseverance demonstrated by each and every one of our graduating seniors. It’s a huge milestone.” She highlighted that although completing their high school career virtually, this group of standouts “transcended the physical boundaries” with their support for one another, as well as their resilience, agility and creativity. 

Sparky Achievement Awards 

Kristin Jackson-Nesmith, ASU Prep Digital Assistant Principal, introduced the Sparky Achievement Awards, presented to students demonstrating academic excellence.

  • Mathematics: Terra Jang Instructor Graham Livingston praised her as someone who “thinks critically. Is constantly engaged in school. Is respectful of her peers and her teachers and just is an all around wonderful person and asset to our school community.”
  • Social Studies: Elias Moreno-Harrington Instructor Raquel Manzanet explained, “We always had great discussions. He would come to class and participate and just engage with his classmates. Always relevant, always having a positive attitude.”
  • English: Isabella G. DelaTorre-Means Instructor Samantha Parker shared, “She makes amazing connections to the world around her. What’s going on in the world, what’s going on in school, to the text that we read.”
  • Electives: Kricia Gianni Zamarron Spanish 3 instructor Renata Valenza described her as “an incredibly motivated and hard-working student who expresses interest and curiosity about the subjects that she studies.”
  • Science: Sofia Sandoval Instructor Jessica Berger shared, “I admired her intellect when she asked complex questions during class. I also learned about her many talents and passions. Sophia is kind hearted, and always respectful of others.”
Grammage: Grit & Growth Awards 

Dr. Robert Striebel, Principal, introduced the Grammage awards for students showing grit and growth throughout the year, making the connection to growth mindset as a key factor in resilience and perseverance. 

  • Mathematics: David Hunter Clark Instructor Erin Morrison taught Hunter in several courses, really getting to witness his path to success: “It was really amazing to watch him soar and he didn’t just soar in my class; he soared in all of his classes.”
  • Social Studies: Emma Glembocki Instructor James Jaeger said Emma “stood out as an exceptional student, disciplined and hardworking” with a marvelous “ability to analyze assignments for the class, some of which were pretty challenging.” 
  • Science: Laisha Ramos Instructor Brooke Toon shared, “The Science Department is extremely proud of the growth she’s made here at ASU Prep Digital, and we cannot wait to see what she does in the future.”
  • English: Ashley Pierre Instructor Samantha Parker praised Ashley for her self-advocacy and ability to ask for help with confidence and maturity. “On top of that, she’s kind, gets excellent grades and participates immensely.”
  • Electives: Madeline Nulph French 3 Honors instructor Ashley Prinsen described how Madeline’s passion really grew after a trip to France and called their in-person meeting a privilege. “She’s every bit as wonderful in person, as I knew she would be.”
A-Mountain Advanced Awards  

May Prince, Executive Director of Student Achievement, introduced the A-Mountain Advanced Awards to seniors earning the most ASU credits while in high school.

  • Paul Montoya graduated summa cum laude with 78 college credits, a weighted GPA of 4.587, well on his way to fulfill a cyber security major at ASU. 
  • Cameron Eckman graduated with 64 college credits and an impressive 4.6 GPA, at just age 16. He plans to attend ASU, majoring in material science and engineering. 
  • Abigail Panusa graduated with 54 college credits, working towards completing a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in criminal justice. 
Sun Devil Spirit Award

Mike Casper, Executive Director of Digital Academics, introduced the Sun Devil Spirit Awards for outstanding seniors who embody the Sun Devil way, as nominated by their Learning Success Coach. 

  • Belinda Fechter is “a ray of sunshine,” involved in a variety of student clubs and activities. She plans to attend Santa Clara University and major in marketing. 
  • Nur Khan, always “two steps ahead” will attend ASU Honors College focusing on material science and engineering.
  • Lucas Moller, “a model ASU Prep Digital student” earned a 4.74 high school GPA as well as 50 college credits with a 4.0 GPA, as well as attended online events and clubs.
  • Matthew Plants’ “exceptional intelligence” will help him soar as he pursues a degree in exploratory math, physical sciences, engineering and technology through ASU online.
  • Hannah Perez “exudes ASU Prep Digital,” completing every semester early, concurrent classes with ease, and graduating summa cum laude.
  • Mariam Khan, “an absolute delight” is known for her drive, determination, true grit, grace and positivity, working hard to achieve her goals. 
  • Moth Hansen, a dedicated hard worker, exemplifies ASU spirit “achieving goals, finishing all courses on time and in good standing.” 
  • Brady Beamer has shown amazing growth and works really hard to achieve his goals, showing perseverance, and unwavering commitment to improve himself. 

Michelle Ugalde closed the ceremony, saying, “I’m so comforted to know that these students are our future and what you’ve been able to accomplish and achieve in high school is truly exceptional, and we can’t even imagine what you are going to accomplish in the coming years.”  

ASU Preparatory Class of 2023 graduated a few days later on May 25. 

Online Learning With Artificial Intelligence

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A sci-fi fantasy meets AI reality in online K-12 education.

“When we saw what’s possible with ChatGPT, it was pretty obvious to me that the world was about to change,” said Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy

Inspired by the ingenuity of emerging AI and the never-ending curiosity of his students, Khan developed a new online education technology called “Khanmigo.” Khanmigo is an intelligent tutoring system powered by AI that caters to the needs of students and educators. One of the first platforms to launch this AI technology for education was Khan World School, an online institution through Arizona State University with a focus on online education innovations

But one curious Khan World School student in particular helped show just how impactful student engagement with AI can be.

“Her name is Saanvi,” said Khan. “She said, ‘I was reading The Great Gatsby and I kept wondering why he looked at the green light in the distance.’ Then Saanvi realized that she could actually talk to Jay Gatsby using Khanmigo.”

The AI simulated Jay Gatsby with his “old sport” catch phrase and all. And Saanvi not only got her answers, but she ended up having a very in-depth conversation with the AI version of this famous literary character. Her interaction alone put a spotlight on the positive impact that AI can have on student outcomes.

“It just shows you how immersive and how rich experiences like this are,” said Khan. “It unlocks a depth to any dimension of learning that would’ve seemed science fiction a year ago.” 

Khan World School, One Year Later

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Making the case for a personalized K-12 virtual education.

One year after its inception, Khan World School and ASU Prep Digital have seen dramatic success with its digital classroom model and personalized education curriculum. The platform’s commitment to providing quality education to everyone, regardless of location or economic background, has made a significant difference in the lives of students worldwide, including its first class of 47 ninth-grade students. 

“This was a bit of an experiment to see if it threads the needle in the right way,” said Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy. “I think we’ve hit the sweet spot where the average student is spending about two hours of synchronous time with their community. But those two hours, I would argue, are more connected than the five or six hours that a lot of students might spend in a traditional classroom.”

The final end-of-year results were surprising, even to Khan.

“We’ve seen two to three times growth in math, we’re looking at three to three plus times expected growth in reading … language arts, I don’t even want to say it because it’s so large, five times expected growth.”

Both Khan and Amy McGrath with ASU Prep Digital see new opportunities for innovation in online education, like online college prep and online honors programs, to help increase engagement and motivate homeschool students. Within the next year, they plan to expand their online offerings to nearly 350 students in grades 6-12 around the world. 

“Increasing opportunity is what Arizona State University is all about,” said McGrath. “Being able to partner with someone as prolific as Sal to design a model that is giving students a hybrid, flexible choice and allowing them to sprint is so exciting.”

Defying the Myth of K-12 Virtual Education 

After the pandemic took students out of the traditional classroom setting, Khan saw virtual classrooms as an opportunity to help them get the best of both worlds through what he calls “mastery learning.” This idea breaks with the traditional classroom approach and combines independent studies with interactive online learning, allowing their students to create a foundation for themselves.

“There are students today who want to be challenged … these are going to be the kids who start the Googles of the future, who cure diseases, write the great novels of the future,” said Khan. “Even if we can reach thousands of them, I think that’s going to have a huge impact on society … [and it] sets an example of what’s possible in the broader world.”

“They’re not necessarily coming in as crazy high-aptitude learners,” added McGrath. “They’re just willing.”

Through their small group-based education system known as “houses,” the first group of students at Khan World School had the unique opportunity to engage with peers at a micro level.

“Fifty really is a small community of learners. We then shrink that even more and have smaller houses where they get to know each other on a more personal basis … [and] work on peer mastery,” said McGrath. “They also have the opportunity to get together in the Socratic seminar sessions that have all 50 of the students … a resounding theme is respect for one another and for different opinions, and the desire to grow and expand their thinking.”

With its adaptive learning technology and data-driven insights, Khan World School continues to innovate and refine its offerings so it can stay ahead of the next big shift in K-12 virtual education.

A Universe of Assets with AI

While there’s still much to learn about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it can affect our day-to-day lives, Khan doesn’t see its emergence in education as an obstacle. In fact, he sees it as a new opportunity. His flagship institution, Khan Lab School, tested the precision and effectiveness of AI in education– and the results are very promising. 

“Artificial intelligence can do higher-order tasks, even in math, that we couldn’t traditionally do,” said Khan. “Artificial intelligence can work with the student, but also assess the student and communicate with the adults on what the adults can do to better support the students.” 

From tutoring and teaching to lesson planning and critical problem solving. In the words of McGrath, AI brings a “universe of assets” to education. And as Khan World School looks to the future, the integration of online resources and AI with traditional education holds great promise in changing the way students learn, and teachers instruct.

“Khan World school is going to be the epicenter of not just throwing technology in there just to look modern, but to do it in ways that are really thoughtful where we can start to do even more mastery-based learning,” said Khan. “With all of the artificial intelligence work that’s happening, we need to show the world how this can be used for good.”


Student Spotlight: Lincoln Wallace, #3 Midfielder

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Lincoln Wallace, Adventurous Student Athlete 

ASU Prep Digital student and California native Lincoln Wallace doesn’t come from a soccer-playing family, but when his dad was deployed in the military, his mom got him involved in a soccer camp. He jokes that at the young age of five, “everyone’s good,” but Lincoln really was good and has continued to play competitively since.

Playing as a midfielder, Lincoln is positioned between the defenders and the forwards, being involved in both assists and attacks. “A midfielder has to be diverse,” he explains, and that seems to be Lincoln’s take on life as he broadens his experiences, trying new things and learning important lessons.

Skillfully Managing Soccer and School 

Lincoln was attending his local public high school and playing on a club soccer team when he was invited to play at a tournament in Spain, which is how he spent the first few months of his freshman year. Then a summer soccer tournament took him to Germany, and shortly after returning to the United States, the International Soccer Academy invited him to come play for the Integrated Academy U17 team at the prestigious Bundesliga soccer club Hertha Berlin. 

Within days of the invitation, Lincoln was heading back to Germany to train with other talented 16- and 17-year-old players from around North America. Registered in ASU Prep Digital’s flexible online school program, he was also set up to successfully complete his sophomore year. 

Lincoln thrives on the independence this experience has granted him, explaining, “My favorite part is having to manage my own day. I’ve got to go to two trainings, but besides that, I could go to the store or I could do school. I could just do anything on my own time, which is really nice.”

Lincoln says that all of his ASU Prep Digital teachers were really nice and easy to contact, always there to help if needed. His favorite classes were Forensic Science and Spanish, and he says he looks forward to trying something new by taking Photography next year. 

“My favorite part is having to manage my own day. I’ve got to go to two trainings, but besides that, I could go to the store or I could do school. I could just do anything on my own time, which is really nice.”

Life Lessons

Living away from home and family while juggling soccer and school seems like it could be a really challenging experience for a 16-year-old, but Lincoln insists it was relatively easy. 

“What makes it worth it for me is I’ve always wanted to play soccer all day and just keep improving. I’ve improved on everything like soccer, meeting new people, getting comfortable in new spaces and situations.”

When it comes to big life lessons, Lincoln says, “Well, I always say if you fail or if you mess up, the only thing that matters is your reaction. It works on and off the field. Like for example, you lose the ball on the field or if you get a C on a test, you can’t do anything about it. It’s the reaction after. You train or study harder.”

Considering that motto, Lincoln reflects on his favorite moment from his eight months in Berlin: a comeback against RB Leipzig’s academy team. “Early in the year, we lost to them. Then, right before the end of the year, we went back. They’re a really big club, one of the biggest. As a team, we all worked so hard, and we demonstrated everything we learned the whole year, and we beat them! It was just a really great experience.” Lincoln will cherish not only the big win but the chance to feel like a professional player competing against a prominent team at an impressive arena with a photographer in tow to capture every special moment. 

“I’ve improved on everything like soccer, meeting new people, getting comfortable in new spaces and situations.”

Up Next

Lincoln is back home in Southern California for summer break, although he’s still working hard. He’s signed up for boxing class and plans to run track, hoping that mixing up his training will help him to become an even better soccer player, more coordinated with faster acceleration and quicker movements. 

Also on Lincoln’s to-do list: participating in the Nexen Manchester City Cup in San Diego, an annual youth soccer tournament that hosts over 10,000 players, ages 6-18.

More than pleased with his experience at Hertha Berlin with “the awesome atmosphere, fans, facilities, players, and coaches—everything” and his academic success with ASU Prep Digital, Lincoln will return to Hertha Berlin in the fall, working toward his ultimate goal of playing professionally in Europe. 

Student Spotlight: Hugh Eaton, #19 Forward

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Hugh Eaton, Taking Power Shots

Hugh Eaton, 17-year-old ASU Prep Digital student athlete, is taking power shots when it comes to his future, getting a jump start on his professional soccer career. Overseas. While still in high school. 

Because of ASU Prep Digital’s flexible and personalized online curriculum, Hugh is able to continue his schooling while also playing forward for Hertha Berlin’s elite Integrated Academy team in Germany. Hugh was recruited for this prestigious opportunity as part of the International Soccer Academy, a program that brings talented North American players to Europe to train on dedicated teams at top Bundesliga and La Liga youth soccer academies.  

Giving 100 Percent to School and Soccer

Hugh says he’s loved soccer since he started playing at around eight years old and knew he wanted to play professionally after watching the World Cup tournament. As for his family, Hugh says, “They fell in love with soccer when I started playing. They love watching the game. And they know that it’s my dream to become a professional, so they’re 100 percent behind me.” 

“You’ve got to be independent. You’ve got to be mature and disciplined. You’re coming all the way from the USA to Germany to do this, you’ve got to work really hard on it.” 

Hugh himself has learned about giving 100 percent. He says that to be a part of this program, “You’ve got to be independent. You’ve got to be mature and disciplined. You’re coming all the way from the USA to Germany to do this, you’ve got to work really hard on it.” 

For Hugh, this means moving away from Southern California for eight months to develop as a youth soccer player. He had previously traveled to England and Spain to play soccer but only for two weeks and with the company of his parents. This time, he was living in dorm-style housing with teammates while balancing classwork and training.

As part of his ASU Prep Digital curriculum this year, Hugh took on German, Chemistry, and Precalculus. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot more in online school because for the most part, it’s very independent,” explains Hugh. “You meet with teachers regularly, and they have been great and very supportive,” he says. Regarding the nine-hour time difference with his ASU Prep Digital teachers, he explains that they’ve been flexible about scheduling meeting times for Discussion Based Assessments around his soccer training and competitive matches. At ASU Prep Digital, Hugh has been able to be a successful student earning high academic marks and balancing the demands of taking his soccer skills to the next level.

Hugh says playing for International Soccer Academy at Hertha Berlin has given him a glimpse into what it will be like to play professionally, with access to the best coaches, physical therapists and training facilities while also playing with and against fierce competitors. Getting to attend professional Hertha Berlin matches has also been a bonus.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot more in online school because for the most part, it’s very independent.”

Having Some Fun

Hugh says the friendships he’s made have been a highlight of his time in the program. When arriving in Berlin, he did not know any of his teammates, but the camaraderie came naturally through shared experiences like traveling, practices and games, and meals at their “hotel” — the Berliner Fußball-Verband.

He laughs, remembering when a smaller teammate scored a header, and everyone ran to him, jumping on him, celebrating. Talking about his teammates, he says, “They’re like best friends now because I’ve spent almost every minute of the last year with them.” 

Up Next

Hugh has returned home until August and is looking forward to spending time with family and friends and his former coaches. 

Lucas, his former roommate, a fellow ASU Prep Digital student, is also from Southern California, and they both are returning after the summer for a second year of intense training at International Soccer Academy — this time at FC Schalke 04. He’ll also be completing his senior year with ASU Prep Digital.  

ASU Prep Digital Hosts Prom

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Attending prom is a quintessential high school experience for many, and ASU Prep Digital’s online students are no exception to this special milestone. Last month, ASU Prep Digital 9–12 students, most of whom had never met in person, gathered for “A Night to Remember: Midnight Masquerade” at the Arizona Science Center.

Donning their formalwear, attendees didn’t let sequins and dress shoes stop them from exploring science exhibits, including shooting basketball hoops and going down slides. Students could be spotted posing at the photo booth in gilded masks or on the dance floor performing the “Cupid Shuffle,” break-dancing and doing “the worm.” There was also an appearance by Sparky the Sun Devil, who showed off some fancy footwork. 

No prom is complete without the crowning of King & Queen, who were selected through a raffle drawing. As advertised, these ASU Prep Digital students enjoyed a night to remember, creating memories to last a lifetime. 

Ruotong Shen: ASU Prep Digital International Student

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Ruotong Shen was born with hip dysplasia and misalignment that caused much of her childhood to be spent at different rehabilitation centers and hospitals throughout China. She would spend early mornings in treatment and then rush to make it to school on time. While those years were tormenting for Ruotong, she considers them an empowering experience, reflecting, “As I look back on that experience now, I have even more gratitude. [It] allowed me to have endurance and a firm heart far beyond my peers.” She has used that positivity and strength to adapt easily to new situations, including pursuing education through American online school. 

Because of multiple hip surgeries and reoccuring pain, Ruotong knew virtual high school would be her best option. She chose ASU Prep Digital because of their great reputation for flexible but rigorous online college-preparatory courses. She appreciated the program’s strong relationship with Arizona State University and trusted ASU’s established online programming.  

Thriving with ASU Prep Digital

Ruotong explains that managing her classes was “an easy task, as long as you make a list of what you need to learn every week.” With her checklist ready, she was able to organize assignments for each of her classes, including leadership, English, and biology. In leadership class, for example, she might watch a video and then complete an essay. She could check that box “done” and move on to her next to-do item.

With her own health history, it’s no surprise that Ruotong has an interest in medical science. For this reason, she found her Forensic Science class especially interesting. A particularly engaging assignment simulated the forensic analysis of the death process, which made Ruotong feel as though she was personally on the scene, making the online learning experience truly interactive and inspiring. 

When it comes to the online school experience, Ruotong appreciates the collaborative online learning environment ASU Prep Digital provides, where curiosity and creativity is encouraged, as well as discussion and collaboration with peers. 

Building relationships with teachers is also possible in an online learning environment. Ruotong, who goes by “Mandy” at American school, left a positive impression on her teachers, who said, “It was a pleasure to have her in my course,” “Always prompt with work and willing to go above and beyond,” and “Very hard working, polite, and all around great kiddo.” Her Mandarin teacher complimented Mandy saying, “She actively participated in class and consistently produced exceptional projects that showcased her language skills and deep understanding of Chinese culture.”

Benefits of ASU Prep Digital

Ruotong recognizes the many benefits of ASU Prep Digital, pointing out how accommodating the program is, explaining that “students can avoid the time and space constraints of traditional teaching models.” In her case, this means taking online American classes from the comfort of her home in China. She’s able to manage her time, working where and when she’s most comfortable, avoiding the physical pains she’d endure in a traditional in-person school.

She goes on to add that the program can work well for both introverted and extroverted students, allowing students to get involved as much as they feel comfortable. “I would definitely recommend ASU Prep Digital to my friends or classmates,” says Ruotong of her successful experience. 

If you are interested in ASU Prep Digital, please join us for an online info session where you’ll have the chance to ask questions and learn about all the exciting opportunities at ASU Prep Digital.