Student-Athletes, Performing Artists Pursue Academic and Personal Goals through Summer Learning


When Eres Freifeld closes her eyes at night, she envisions herself in a professional soccer uniform, taking the field in the final match of the World Cup. She sees herself with her U.S. Women’s National Soccer teammates celebrating their victory – a win over their biggest competitor. It’s the culmination of a lifetime of devotion to the sport that she lives, loves, and breathes.

Then the dream shifts—same dream, but a new scene. Eres is in an operating room, wielding surgical tools to repair a patient’s injured knee. It’s an exhilarating combination of her two life goals – making the leap from student athlete to professional, and a career as an orthopedic surgeon.

At 13 years old, Eres has already discovered that she doesn’t need to sacrifice one ambitious goal for the other. As a Laurel Springs School student, she balances a flexible, yet rigorous K-12 online education built around the demanding schedule of her athletic training.

Eres 2“I came to online school because I wanted to be challenged academically, but also have more time to play soccer,” Eres said. “My big dream is to be a professional soccer player, play on the U.S Women’s National soccer team and win the World Cup. I knew that I would have a better shot of pursuing this career if I had more time to play the sport.”

One primary benefit, Eres says, that makes balancing academics and competitive athletics possible is her individualized Laurel Springs program that includes taking courses during the summer to make the most of her available time.

Flexible online learning schedules help student-athletes get ahead

Summer courses sometimes carry a stigma as a remediation period for students who struggle during a traditional academic year. Yet summer boasts the most amazing resource of all for students of all types – time! Time that can be used to bolster an academic transcript, take a single course to explore an area of study, or, like Eres, to get ahead so she can focus on training.

Last summer, Eres got a jump on her 7th-grade year, taking an accelerated pre-algebra course to progress more quickly through her math requirements. She demonstrated mastery of the content and completed the course, preparing her for a new school year and allowing her to focusher extra time on her sports goals.

Laurel Springs has long been considered the premier online school for student-athletes who seek flexibility and a college-prep experience as they pursue their talents and interests.

“We are proud to work with passionate student-athletes, and we recognize that balancing rigorous academics and elite athletic pursuits can be a difficult path to navigate,” said Alex Proctor, Student-Athlete and Placement Manager at Laurel Springs. “When these students enroll with Laurel Springs, they can rely on us to provide the support they need to excel on the field and in the classroom, with the ultimate goal of preparing them for college, professional competition, and a successful adult life.”

Building skills and confidence through online learning

An unexpected benefit of a flexible online education appeared for Eres on the field. She says the structure of her courses helped nurture her self-described abilities as a “faster thinker.”

Learn a concept and apply a concept in action, with critical thinking and problem solving leading the way – it works on the field in the same way it works in the classroom. In combination with the additional time Eres has been able to funnel toward soccer training, the results have made themselves apparent.

“I have actually seen myself improving more in the sport I play by attending online school, all because it allows me to spend more time on soccer while still getting the best education,” Eres said.

Like Eres, Mia Hanflig, 16, chose Laurel Springs for a more flexible schedule that is still academically rigorous. Mia is a ballet student dreaming to become a dancer in a professional ballet company. In order to reach this goal, she has attended various summer intensive ballet programs around the world, hoping to soon train year-round at a pre-professional school.

The Laurel Springs summer program is part of Mia’s individualized educational experience, which allows her to set her own goals and self-pace. Summer courses help to continue learning throughout an entire year, eliminating a possible overload of course work or missed opportunities due to scheduling restrictions.

Mia H 3“As a ballet student, I am quite busy because I am training to pursue a career in dance. Brick-and-mortar schooling didn’t give me the time and support I wanted to dedicate sufficient work toward my passion,” Mia said.

She first took summer courses after her 8th-grade year, including health, world cultures, honors world literature, nutrition, and social media courses. This summer, as she prepares to graduate earlier than anticipated (in 2022), she is taking honors American history and honors American literature.

Mia says her summer courses have given her a sense of pride, accomplishment, and motivation, helping her find a “balance and harmony of dedication and speed.” She says she feels more confident, more responsible, and less stressed as a result.

She has found, as many Laurel Springs students have, that teachers are ready to encourage and push her to work to her full potential. Because Laurel Springs is dedicated to real-world experiences that incorporate students’ interests, she finds herself motivated and engaged.

“I am also happy to have access to so many diverse elective courses so I can learn about additional subjects I am interested in,” Mia said. “The lessons are structured in a way that makes me feel ready and prepared for assessments and quizzes. The material is presented in a logical, efficient and effective manner, allowing me to become the strongest student I can be.”

Knowing that a virtual experience does not need to be an isolating one is of great value to students who are also focusing on intense personal goals. Laurel Springs students engage in peer and instructor interaction in a variety of ways to foster social-emotional growth and intertwine them with learning.

Social activities, celebrations and events, as well as virtual field trips and live speaker presentations, are some of the many ways Laurel Springs students interact and continue to nurture social-emotional growth, engaging with peers in a positive and safe online environment.

“Fostering a sense of community and providing opportunities for social life are unique challenges for an online school,” said Rachelle Wafer, Student Engagement Manager at Laurel Springs. “Just as student-athletes or performing artists might socialize with their teammates or other artists, we aim to provide avenues for them to develop relationships with their academic peers in the United States and around the world. As a global community, cultivating that additional level of connection is critical to the development of well-rounded and socially enriched individuals.”

Mia encourages students who are considering online summer courses as part of their Laurel Springs experience to give it a try. In fact, she suggests students and parents shift their lens from the limiting view of learning exclusively within the traditional school year to one of exploration, individualization and flexibility that accompanies year-round study.

“I can dance much more frequently, spend more time with my family, travel, and gain experiences and exposure to new things,” Mia said. “Without online school, I would feel anxious and limited by the tedious, tiring, and rigid public school system.”

To learn more about how your student-athlete or performing artist can benefit from the Laurel Springs School experience please request more information or contact Admissions at (800) 377-5890.