1507424_1440651862820314_1056511925_oIt has been such an amazing spring of 2014 at US Performance Academy. There are so many great things taking shape and a big focus for me has always been the student experience. That’s why the story of Maximo Nores has been so interesting to watch unfold.

Maximo arrived at USPA this past spring after a fall filled with great opportunities sailing. As a result, he acquired numerous absences from his school which impacted his grades. That is when Maximo enrolled in USPA. Working with his learning coach and family, the team designed a program around Maximo’s sailing schedule that maximized his learning and training times. Maximo worked with his learning coach and completed a strengths and weaknesses exercise to identify strategies for success. USPA also created a routine for him to work efficiently and handle the responsibility of taking ownership in his own learning. The resulting experience has been very exciting. Maximo has settled into a routine that enables him to complete his work on his own schedule. We’ve found that he isn’t working necessarily faster, but simply better. The coursework meets him where he is as a learner and is mastery based so he doesn’t review concepts he already understands. It’s part of USPA’s customized approach to academics. Lastly, Maximo actually has more time in his day to follow other passions and pursuits. He isn’t restricted by time and having to rush from one activity to the next due to the time he has saved using our individualized approach to learning.

From a sailing perspective, Maximo traveled to North American Championships in Cancun Mexico this past month. It was so eye-opening for me as a past independent school administrator to log in and change his calendar for academics and note the account. Maximo was then able to focus on the competition while also keeping up with his studies while the wind was down on the racecourse. I was also so excited to get an email from Maximo’s parents when he won the event and qualified for the youth olympics. I think the real highlight was the quote from his email.

“We can feel he is extremely happy. He feels he manage his life. He has trained like he has never done before. Every day for 3 weeks. He is smiling and simply glittering for the last 2-3 weeks and he loves studying by himself. He has shown more than unusual interest for history; watching side movies about WW2 and other videos. Marina and I cannot believe the new Maxi.”

I think it is natural for a parent to be nervous about their son or daughter engaging in a program that requires such a high level of organization and responsibility to complete. My biggest concern when any student begins the USPA program is the assumption it will be easier than a traditional school environment. USPA expects a huge amount from its student body. Aside from actually completing your individualized courses, a student must begin to understand routines, personal strengths and weaknesses, and organizational skills that allow them to thrive in the USPA community. I’ve consistently found that students in middle and high schools respond very positively to the added responsibility when challenged and supported throughout the process. As adults, we just need to have the confidence to provide such an opportunity. Yes, there will be ups and downs, but communicating and collaborating online is natural to these students, and they excel when asked to manage such responsibilities. As one ivy school admissions representative mentioned “if a student hasn’t taken an online course before they step on our campus they will already be behind,” is only further affirmation that what we are doing at USPA, and Maximo’s story isn’t anything but the new normal.

Now, Maximo’s ability to step right into our program and see the benefits of increased training, efficient individualized learning is something we think every student can do. Going out and winning North American’s 2 weeks later is what makes it so special.

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