Horizon’s 2020 Salutatorian Completes College Courses through Independent Study
Andrew Jones started his independent study program with Horizon Charter Schools as a kindergarten student and rose to become the second highest ranking member of Horizon’s 2020 graduating class. With a 4.29 GPA, he also received a Highest Honors 4.0+ GPA Award and a Golden State Merit Diploma.
“I was surprised that I was second in the class since I hadn’t completed the A-G Pathways or taken any AP classes,” he said. “Interestingly, my friend in Horizon took basically all the same classes that I did. The only real difference on our straight-A transcripts was that he got an A- in one class the first semester in ninth grade, which put me ahead. Without the GPA boost from the college classes, I would probably have ranked a lot lower than I did.”
As class Salutatorian, he represented his classmates as the student speaker during Horizon’s virtual graduation program. He incorporated words of wisdom with current affairs and humor to provide an inspiring and entertaining speech.
“I enjoyed being the Salutatorian and having my 2 minutes of fame in the graduation video,” Andrew said with a smile. “I didn’t have a lot of time to work on my speech, so I tried to keep it fairly simple and innocuous. Had I had more time, I might have tried to broach more interesting or controversial topics, but I like the touch that the quarantine jokes gave it.”
Independent Study Became a Family Adventure
When their children were young, Andrew’s parents decided independent study would be a good fit for their family. They researched different avenues and chose Horizon Charter Schools because a trusted friend told them about the great experience their family was having with Horizon. So, when Andrew was five, they signed him up and began their independent study adventure together. When his younger sister and brother were old enough, they joined Horizon, too.
Asked what she liked best about Horizon, Andrew’s mom, Susan, said, “My favorite thing about Horizon is our supervising teacher who has come alongside us since the beginning of our journey when Andrew entered kindergarten. She has been a tremendous support.”
“We enjoy so many aspects,” Susan continued. “I am thankful for the time I’ve had at home with my children, the ability to intermingle home and school life and the flexibility and freedom with (this program). I am able to choose teaching styles that best suit each child. The kids have been able to explore what interests them and take part in a variety of extra-curricular activities. We’ve been able to create our own schedule. When the kids were younger, their grandma would pick them up for special field trips which helped create memories that will last a lifetime.”
In addition to spending quality family time when he was younger, Andrew enjoyed playing with his friends from school, church and the neighborhood. He also took karate classes for a few years and even tried his hand at playing guitar and piano.
High School Years Bring Volunteering and College Readiness
“Andrew is tenderhearted with a deep level of empathy and compassion for others. He works hard and perseveres and stands firm for what he believes,” Susan added. “He is determined and thoughtful and eager to help others.”
So, it was only natural when he entered high school that Andrew became a group leader for first and second graders through the AWANA club and started volunteering at church. He also joined the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Explorer program. The Explorer program is designed for volunteers between the ages of 15 and 21. It provides experiences that help young people become responsible and caring adults.
“I was considering law enforcement as a career. One of my friends was the highest-ranking explorer in the Sheriff’s Explorer program,” he explained. “I was part of the program for about a year. We met weekly. During those meetings, sheriff deputies would give presentations on different aspects of the job or we would practice tactics, radio usage, and such. There were also optional community service events and range days. Community service was usually traffic control or assistance with setup or takedown for a large event.”
Schooling changed a bit as a high school student as well. Andrew began taking Virtual Learning Instruction (VLI) classes through Horizon’s distance learning program. For the first time, he received instruction and grades from teachers other than his parents, which he liked. Although he loved independent study, he was ready for a new experience.
Dual Enrollment Provides New Challenges and Opportunities
Starting with his first semester of eleventh grade, Andrew joined the dual enrollment program through Folsom Lake College. Dual enrollment allows students to earn high school and college credit for courses completed while they are still in high school. This can be accomplished either through the A-G Pathways program or by taking classes on a college campus. Andrew felt the A-G Pathways program was too rigorous. So, he chose to take classes at Folsom Lake College.
“I found out about the dual enrollment program from either my supervising teacher or guidance counselor,” Andrew recalled. “I always thought it would be neat to start college early.”
When he began taking college classes, he was still exploring career choices. So, he chose to take classes that fulfilled both high school requirements and were widely applicable across many college majors. During his two years at Folsom Lake College, Andrew took English, Spanish, US history, political science, economics, and calculus classes. Although participating in dual enrollment was challenging, he also found the experience very rewarding.
“While these classes were strenuous and difficult, I enjoyed them greatly,” Andrew continued. “The thing I enjoyed the most about community college was being treated like an adult. Instead of having to have my ST and parents sign off on everything, I had professors who told the class that they didn’t want to hear from parents but wanted us to do something if we had a problem.”
Exploration and Discovery Key to Learning
A life-long learner, Andrew enjoys discovering how and why things work. He likes math and to work on computers — he even built one in junior high while homeschooling.
According to Susan, “As a young boy, he was very inquisitive and always wanted to know more.”
His love of electronics prompted him to explore engineering for his senior Personalized Learning Project (PLP) presentation. A graduation requirement, the purpose of the PLP is to ensure all high school seniors graduate with clear post-secondary goals and a plan to achieve them. The program consists of two parts. PLP-A is a career match that helps students determine what career path they’d like to pursue. PLP-B is the project portion that allows high school seniors the opportunity to delve deeper into the field of their choice.
For his presentation, Andrew invented, constructed and coded an alarm system. Once activated, if a sensor is tripped, extremely bright lights disorient a would-be thief and a piercingly loud siren calls for help. The programming alone occupied about 50% of the overall project time and consisted of over 200 lines of code.
Love of Engineering Leads to Career Path
Part of the PLP guidelines dictate that students explore career options. With a background in math and a love of electronics, Andrew researched several different possibilities, including computer engineering/sciences or becoming an electrical engineer. However, he was concerned that most computer engineering jobs are desk jobs, which didn’t appeal to him. Andrew felt being an electrical engineer was too limiting of a field, and he wasn’t excited about working with electricity. So, after exploring his options for his PLP project, he chose to pursue mechanical engineering as his career field. He intends to continue taking classes at Folsom Lake College, then enroll in a university to complete his degree. Given his drive and determination — and a great sense of humor — we are sure Andrew will continue to be successful. We look forward to seeing what the future holds in store for this amazing young man.