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PA Virtual Students Give Their Voice to Those in Need

PA Virtual Students Give Their Voice to Those in Need

Your voice is how you engage with the world. So what happens when a person loses the ability to speak? With technological advances, people with vocal disabilities are able to use assistive devices to communicate. Many times these devices use a voice that can sound robot-like. One company has set out to humanize these narrations, and PA Virtual Charter School students and staff have joined this innovative new project.

Over the holiday break this past December, the school challenged students to join the VocaliD project. The VocalID platform creates unique vocal identities using “donations” from real people to give its recipients a human sounding voice. To join, students created accounts and began to dictate sounds and words through the VocaliD online platform called BeSpoke. VocaliD then processes these noises and words into a Human Voicebank – like a blood bank, for those in need. The complexity of creating a unique voice requires 7-8 hours of soundbites in an effort to fully digitize a human voice.

PA Virtual 5th grade teacher Aubrey Pace was one of the first to complete the challenge. “I love the idea of bringing life to people of all ages that don’t have a voice and cannot express themselves the way we can,” she said. “We always encourage our students to give back to their local community, and this was a great way for them to give back on a much larger scale without even leaving the house!”

Over 140 students have already participated in donating their voices, thanks in large part to the ease of joining the program. Cyber schools in PA provide each student with a laptop that comes with a microphone and camera, and many PA Virtual students use audio headsets for class.

Ninth grade student Naomi Wegner knows that advancements in this type of technology are big – she compared it to the telephone or the car. “I read passages from one of my favorite stories, The Wizard of Oz, so it was easy for me to be charismatic and personable with my voice because I was familiar with the material, said Naomi. “It’s so exciting to think that one day someone will be able to use my voice to communicate with their friends and family.”

Corrine Putnick and her son Robert, a 10th grade student at PA Virtual, both participated in the project. Corrine encourages the idea of giving back, and when this opportunity was presented, both thought it was a unique and exciting way to give back. “I didn’t even know there was a way to give someone a voice, someone who doesn’t have the ability to speak on their own,” said Corrine. “As we started to look into the program, we thought it was really neat and wanted to get involved, both as a student and as a learning coach.”

Using the thousands of voices that have been donated, people with speech disabilities who use VocaliD will each receive a custom blended voice that matches their age, gender and even geographical location.

To learn more about how you can be a part of the VocaliD Project at PA Virtual, contact Doug Wessels, Director of Service Learning. To learn more about the Vocalid program, please visit


Why we Chose PA Virtual for Kindergarten

PA Virtual Kindergarten ProgramSusan Wilson enrolled her son at PA Virtual Charter School almost seven years ago. Johnny, now in 6th grade, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis as a toddler. Children who suffer from this type of colitis, find it difficult to keep a regular schedule – a huge concern when looking into traditional brick and mortar schools in the area. The family began to research other options and on the recommendation of a friend, began to look into PA Virtual.

Susan, a stay at home mom at the time, found PA Virtual to be the perfect fit. Enrolling as an asynchronous student allowed her son to complete work on his own terms – and not have to worry if his disease flared up midday. She was amazed at how simple the K12 curriculum was to comprehend and the supplies that were sent at the beginning of each school year. In addition to a laptop computer, kindergarten students at PA Virtual receive additional story books, blocks, phonics sets and counting toys.

She noted it is also important for kindergarten children to receive plenty of interaction with other students in the virtual classroom, and at local outings, which are organized across the state.

Currently, Johnny’s UC is in remission and he is able to adhere to a more synchronous schedule – meaning he attends live online classes with his peers each day. The Wilson family would never think of a traditional public school because of the bonds they have built at PA Virtual.

Susan’s advice for new parents:  “Don’t stress out! Reach out to and connect with other PA Virtual families. When we first started, I wasn’t stressed, but I had lots of questions about adjusting to the cyber model. I met a few parents at a local outing who were always there to help when I had a new question!”

Could cyber education be right for your child? Join us for our Kindergarten Online Open House on Wednesday, March 1st at 6:00 P.M. RSVP here!

Why we Chose PA Virtual – The Darkey Family

Why I Chose PA Virtual- The Darkey FamilyAfter deciding she wanted to focus on a competitive tennis career beyond the high school level, Julia Darkey, a former student in the Manheim Township School District, has found a great balance by enrolling at PA Virtual.

“In Lancaster County the idea of homeschooling is very common, but not so much cyber school,” said Renee Darkey, Julia’s mother. “We knew another local family through tennis who had a great experience with PA Virtual and knew it was the right place for Julia.”

Each year the media reports stories of cyber students who face challenges when trying to attend their local proms, homecoming or take part in district activities- a practice that is illegal per charter law – because they are not considered “district students.” The Darkey family, however, has never experienced this with MTHS.

Coaches and the administration have since gone above and beyond to make sure that Julia is always included in school team activities, despite the fact that she isn’t present in the same classrooms as her teammates during the day.

Not only does she still play as a member of the MTHS tennis team, Julia was selected as a Lancaster-Lebanon League All-Star this year and the team was a semi-finalist in the PIAA State Championship. She also frequently attends dances or other social functions at MTHS, just by showing her PA Virtual ID card.

Outside of MTHS, she frequently travels to Philadelphia to train at local tennis clubs and spends anywhere from 2-5 hours practicing each day. PA Virtual gives Julia the ability to complete her school work on the go and never get behind or worry about missing days due to tournaments or travel!

“As a parent, I feel very connected to other families in our area,” said Renee. “Our local Family Support Coordinator (FSC), Heidi Lightner welcomed us when we were new to PA Virtual and is always encouraging the students to get together socially and through community service-based outings.”

As a junior going through the college application process, the Darkey family loves how easily accessible all of Julia’s grades and transcripts are through PA Virtual’s online learning system. The school uses Naviance, a college and career readiness software, where transcripts can be sent directly to colleges at any time. After graduating as a member of the Class of 2018, Julia hopes to secure a tennis scholarship and is setting her sights on smaller Division 1 schools. Going back to her mother’s southern roots, she is currently looking at schools specifically in the North or South Carolina.

Do you have a student who excels in athletics or the arts and could benefit from PA Virtual’s flexible scheduling? Request more information here.

D’Alessandro Sisters Pursue their Passion

PA Virtual D'Alessandro Sisters

Parents – what do you do when you start to realize that your child is not only incredibly talented, but is one of the best?

That thought crossed the mind of Vera D’Alessandro from time to time as she watched her daughters Rayna and Gionna rack up the wins in local and national dance competitions through elementary school. While both of the D’Alessandro sisters compete nationally, Rayna, 10 is the current Miss Extreme Talent of the United States and Petite Miss VIP Dance national title holder.

Two years ago, Vera made the choice to enroll both of her daughters, at PA Virtual Charter School, an online public charter school. This decision allows the girls to dedicate hours a day to not only take high level ballet, contemporary and lyrical classes at Ultimate Dance Complex in McMurray, but also receive individual instruction from UDC’s coaches.

Check out one of Rayna’s dance performances here.

Both girls practice dance approximately 15-22 hours per week, thanks to the flexible scheduling of PA Virtual. Rayna has been dancing since she was 18 months old, and dreams of one day competing on the hit Fox TV show So You Think You Can Dance or landing a Broadway lead.

“Rayna has always been naturally talented, but when she was given the time to dedicate to practice the amount of hours she wanted to, she began to soar,” said Vera. “Enrolling both girls balanced our hectic schedule – they can complete school work early in the morning or late at night, and take their laptops when traveling so they never fall behind.”

After enrolling at PA Virtual, it was discovered that Rayna was dyslexic. Dyslexia is one of the most common reading disorders and can have a negative ripple effect in a child’s educational journey when left undiagnosed. Through the support of teachers and staff at PA Virtual, she has been given the tools to successfully navigate the virtual classroom, like one-on-one assistance or extra time to process and understand class materials.

“We are in the Pittsburgh area, so our Family Support Coordinator is Amy Markle,” said Vera. “During our first year with the school, Amy was tremendous with helping our family transition to the school and really made us feel like part of the PA Virtual community.”

Could PA Virtual be what your child needs to take the next step in their athletic or arts career? Request more information and see if a cyber education is a good fit for your family!

Interested in reading more about these talented sisters? Check out this recent feature in The Almanac.

Are You #PAVirtualProud?

PA Virtual Pride Art Contest

Join us in our 2nd Annual PA Virtual Pride Art Contest!

School Choice Week is January 22-28. One of the ways PA Virtual celebrates is through our annual art contest! All PA Virtual students are invited to submit a photo of one original (new) artwork that shows off their PA Virtual Pride.

We want to see your creative side! Students can use any medium – paint, charcoal or even digital graphic design to create a new and original work of art. Make sure to include the name of the school somewhere in your piece. The top three submissions from both Grades K-6 and Grades 7-12 will be put to a school wide vote during National School Choice Week which runs from January 22-28. One winner from each group will be featured in PA Virtual Weekly and on our school Facebook page.

National School Choice Week 2017 will be America’s largest-ever celebration of high quality education options for children. The goal of (NSCW) is to raise public awareness of all types of education options for children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling. At PA Virtual, we are continually engaging our families to create a safe and successful online community across Pennsylvania.

So show your PA Virtual Pride and share your support for school choice! Students have until Sunday, January 22 to complete the entry form – submit your photos today!