For one Boyertown student cyber education helped defy the odds that were stacked against her as a young child. Before Kindergarten, Mariah Steffey was told that her learning disabilities would keep her from learning with others her age. In a traditional brick and mortar setting, many students like Mariah fall behind or are unable to receive the individualized attention they need to keep up, let alone excel in school. Discovering cyber education was a game changer for the Steffey family.

Mariah has been a student at Agora Cyber Charter School for 9 years, and received her diploma on June 18 at the Giant Center in Hershey, with almost 1,000 other graduates from the Agora Class of 2015. Despite being part of such a large class, she knows she is much more than a number or a label.

“Agora has allowed me to grow beyond traditional expectations,” says Mariah.

She will graduate with a 4.13 GPA, ranked 8th in her class (out of 1,000+) and has taken many honors courses along the way. She is a three year member of the school’s National Honor Society, and served as Treasurer this year. Agora’s flexible scheduling has allowed her to enroll at Reading Area Community College (RACC) which will allow her to enter college this fall with 9 credits already complete.

Mariah recognizes online education as her “saving grace” allowing her opportunities she never would have had in a traditional public school, including a dedication to performing and teaching dance, and numerous community services projects. She has been a mentor to younger students and her siblings, and has worked as a volunteer in a local nursing home.

At graduation, Mariah will be the 2015 recipient of the Karol Canfield Memorial Award – which is very close to her heart. Canfield, a former special education teacher was a driving force behind Mariah’s enrollment in Agora when it first opened its virtual “doors.” When Canfield left Mariah’s first cyber charter school to become the Director of Special Education at Agora, Mariah followed her to the new school – and has flourished ever since.

Since her passing in 2008, the family of Karol Canfield has awarded a scholarship to one college bound special education student from Agora. Nominated and chosen by teachers, the Karol Canfield award highlights a student’s many accomplishments. “Mariah is one of those students who enters a teachers’ life and leaves a lasting footprint. Her amazing work ethic is nothing short of inspirational,” said one teacher, in her nomination of Mariah.

In total, Mariah has been offered over $300,000 in scholarships from a variety of schools in Pennsylvania. Ultimately she has chosen Alvernia University, where she will study occupational therapy as a part of a highly selective 5-year Master’s program.

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