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Soccer, Math, and Family Time All Rolled Up Together in School

Shot of a soccer team having a team talk

An online high school helps a competitive soccer player

excel on the field and in the classroom.


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A Soccer Prospect

Chris Stowell's wingspan is more than six feet wide.

He's six feet, three inches tall. He's also quick and has great hands.

Put a bright jersey on him, and he becomes one of the top soccer goalkeepers in the pacific northwest—already competing in some of the country's most competitive tournaments.

"Eventually, I want to go to the next level," Chris says. Which means making his way up the ranks to a team like Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers.


"It finally gave me the flexibility to go to my tournaments AND do my school work either beforehand or afterwards," Chris says. "It was so easy to catch up."


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A New Flexibility

Chris' first two years in high school were at a local public school in Eugene, Oregon.

"But I missed so much of school to go to all these soccer tournaments," he says. "I had to make up a lot of work and schedule a lot of tests with all my teachers."

That changed once he started attending Oregon Connections Academy for his junior and senior year. It's a virtual charter school affiliated with the Santiam Canyon School District in Mill City, Oregon, that is available statewide to students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

"It finally gave me the flexibility to go to my tournaments AND do my school work either beforehand or afterwards," Chris says. "It was so easy to catch up."

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"I wasn't excited about Oregon Connections Academy at first," Chris says.

"I really liked the social aspects of the public high school," he says. "I figured going to a virtual charter school would make me more socially isolated."

But it didn't turn out that way.

"I still stay in touch with my friends," Chris says. "And this kind of high school, for me, was the much better path."

Slower Pace When Needed, Faster Pace When Wanted

In addition to the flexibility Chris' new school allowed him and his athletic pursuits, Oregon Connections Academy made it possible for him to go through his studies at his own pace.

"I really felt dragged down in math class in my old school," Chris says. "The slow pace was frustrating."

"Other classes, I actually needed a slower pace," he says.

"The curriculum was already laid out," Chris says. "I could look online and see exactly what I needed to do for each week and each month, charging through some subjects and going slower through others."

Growing Up On the Field and Off

Chris has matured as a soccer player over the years.

"As a goalkeeper, you have to be a leader on the field," he says. "You tell people what to do, give them encouragement, hold them accountable."

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Oregon Connections Academy brought out similar traits on the academic side of his life.

"I really had to take charge of my education," Chris says. "No one was pushing me along or telling me what to do. I had to take charge of the completion of my studies."


"I really had to take charge of my education," Chris says. "No one was pushing me along or telling me what to do. I had to take charge of the completion of my studies."


Chris' mom, Julie, saw the same thing happening.

"He matured a great deal," Julie says. "He got used to calling his teachers with questions and started to feel more comfortable contacting them to work out the balance between school and soccer."

"It was really difficult for him at first," she says. "But I think the experience gives him a leg up in confidence compared to a similar experience in a traditional brick and mortar school."

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 4.11.27 PMCollege and the Road Ahead

In the fall, Chris will go to college—majoring in math at Corban University in Salem, Oregon.

His new soccer coach is also involved as a coach in the Portland Timbers organization.

But one step at a time.

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Chris is "a little bit nervous" about going off to school.

"I'll be living on my own for the first time," he says. "I'm nervous about doing my own laundry," he jokes.

"We'll visit often," Julie says. "He'll only be an hour away."