Open High School, Open High School
WEST JORDAN — A funny thing happened to Angelique Cooper as she was on her way to becoming the next Marilyn Monroe.
She was getting ready to leave her apartment in Hollywood for an acting audition this past May when she opened her email and discovered she was valedictorian of her high school graduation class.
Angelique hit speed dial on her cell phone.
"Guess what?" she exulted when her mom came on the line back home in Utah. "I'm valedictorian!"
And not just any old valedictorian, but the very first valedictorian in the history of the Open High School Trailblazers, the state of Utah's first all-online high school.
With her straight-A, 4.0 grade-point average — something she maintained in and around her schedule as an aspiring actress living in Los Angeles — Angelique topped Open High's inaugural graduating class of 12.
Last month, she flew back to Utah to attend graduation ceremonies and receive congratulations from her classmates.
It was the first time she met any of them in person.
This kind of thing never could have happened in the old days. Like last year.
But time and technology march on, and it is now possible to go to school without actually going to school.
You still have to do the classwork. You still have to pass the tests. But the school comes streaming to you instead of the other way around. All you need is a laptop, an Internet connection, and a certain level of time-management skills.
You can do your schoolwork at midnight if you want to. Dress standards? Up to you.
After being tossed around for years, the concept for online high school was turned into a Utah reality three years ago when the state approved the charter for Open High School and a class of 125 ninth-graders signed up.
DeLaina Tonks, an educator with a master's degree from Ohio State, was on the board that founded Open High and was named the school's first director.
As the mother of four children, she soon discovered that the position fit her perfectly. She can run the school and still have enough flexibility to also be home to raise her kids.
"I've got the dream job I never knew I wanted," says DeLaina.
Online school may not be for everyone, she'll tell you, but for some it is THE answer.
Take Angelique the valedictorian, for example.
From as far back as she can remember, Angelique wanted to be an actress and entertainer. When she turned 16 she talked her parents, Robert and Christy, to let her go to Los Angeles and give the big time a try. Her mom moved down with her initially to help her get set up.
Good things started happening fast. Angelique got a role in a movie. She did some ad work. Everyone agreed she had plenty of promise.
But as she approached her senior year of high school she'd stretched the traditional education system to its limits. No way could she continue to live in L.A. and get her degree in Utah.
Last summer, she had her bags packed to return home to Sandy when she heard about Open High.
Angelique and her mom made an appointment to talk to Director Tonks in her office in West Jordan, which, by the way, may be the cleanest, neatest office of any high school principal in captivity. ("we don't have very much paper," explains DeLaina).
Five minutes into the meeting Angelique started to tear up.
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