Students need to know about all the options they have for completing high school, says Rahima Ali, a Running Start student who attends Insight School of Washington and Shoreline Community College.

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Editor’s note: As part of Education Lab this school year, we selected a panel of students to write essays about education issues that matter to them.  This is the second in a series. The first installment can be found here.

When people think of a typical high school student, they usually don’t envision me.

Like other students, I used to spend most of my time in a traditional public school, attending class from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. But this schedule was challenging for me, which is why I decided to switch to an online school.

In the beginning of my junior year I was a Running Start student at Nathan Hale High School and Shoreline Community College. The Running Start program allows juniors and seniors to take college courses at Washington’s community and technical colleges and earn high school and college credit.

In the Running Start program, I found myself passing all my college courses with flying colors but failing my high school courses. This was because I was focusing all my attention on my interesting and challenging college courses while doing the bare minimum for most of my boring high school ones.

By the end of the first semester I was distraught over the fact that I was not doing better in my high school courses. I was stressed and anxious and felt caged in.  My mother sat me down and we discussed my options. At first we thought my only options were dropping my college classes or enrolling in a new high school. But then I learned that I could take my high school classes through an online school and continue my Running Start classes at Shoreline Community College. I believed online school would help because I had a friend in a similar predicament and online school worked for her.

Many adults questioned my decision to enroll in an online school. They told me to drop my college courses and focus on high school instead.  But I decided that I loved the experience of college too much.

For the last four months, I’ve been enrolled at the Insight School of Washington online school for my high-school courses and have continued taking college classes at Shoreline Community College. I’m so glad I made this choice. Insight School allows me to move at my own pace, and I have the option of taking regular, honors or Advanced Placement classes.

The greatest advantage for me is a more flexible schedule. I don’t have to worry about college courses interfering with my high school courses. Before doing online school I had to be aware that I had to fit my college courses around my high school ones.  Now  I have the freedom to take whatever college course I want. Also, at my online school, I’m my own teacher, which means how much I get out of my education depends on how much time and energy I put into it. Finally, at Nathan Hale, the majority of my work was group work, but online school is mostly individual work, which I like better.

Students who have difficulties learning in regular public schools should know they have other options. I believe schools should do a better job in helping students understand these options because different students learn in different ways. I am lucky enough to have figured out the best route for me.