Sasha Desaunois-Mullen must drive more than five hours across the state to graduate from a high school she’s never actually seen.
“I finally get to meet people I went to school with,” Desaunois-Mullen, 18, said with a giggle over the phone.
The valedictorian of East Valley Online Learning earned all her high school credits – plus taking many classes that piqued her interest (forensic science and anthropology) – online. Instead of sitting with her peers in a traditional classroom, fighting hallway jams and forgetting her locker combination, Desaunois-Mullen logged into her laptop while lying on her bed in her Poulsbo home with her pet ferret Stinky. If she worked at the kitchen table, a cat usually joined her. Stinky isn’t allowed because, he’s, well, too Stinky.
Desaunois-Mullen competes as a junior-level ice skater at U.S. Figure Skating competitions across the Northwest. She spends hours on the ice each day and rides the ferry to Seattle twice a week for lessons. And she’s often traveling to competitions. Going to a traditional high school wasn’t an option. That’s when she found East Valley Online Learning, which allowed her to balance high school classes with her ice skating passion.
The online school began in 2009 under the umbrella of Washington Academy of Arts and Technology, which encompassed several different school programs. This year is the first year EV Online has been its own school and 22 students, including Desaunois-Mullen, are graduating.
“She sets a wonderful example for how online learning can lead to success and a future in college,” said counselor Mary-Hope Lakin about Desaunois-Mullen.
Each school day varies for Desaunois-Mullen. Some mornings she’s up early to skate and does classwork in the afternoon. Other days she studies in the morning and skates in the afternoon. Her laptop is her constant companion.
She has weekly meetings through the computer with her mentor Ken Christen, who answers questions and helps her figure out math problems or other concerns. An educational chat program allows them to talk directly to each other, or type messages and use a white board.
Each class is taught by a different teacher in the East Valley School District. Desaunois-Mullen doesn’t know the other students or where they live. The most exposure she received was when the class had an online talent show. Of course, Desaunois-Mullen did a PowerPoint presentation on figure skating.
“Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to be in a classroom,” she said, calling from Colorado Springs where she was attending the U.S. Figure Skating annual meeting. “But I do have friends in skating. It’s not that I’m not getting any social contact.”
After graduation June 12, Desaunois-Mullen plans to take a gap year and focus on skating and competing.
“Everything is coming together,” she said. “I want to take a chance to go out and skate more.”
Then she will apply to colleges where she plans to major in criminology and anthropology.
“I’ve always wanted to solve crimes and study people,” she said.
She said online high school has given her the chance to take more classes in her areas of interest. And how can figure skating help with a career of criminology?
“Skating has taught me you don’t give up, you always push more,” she said.