Local teen Troy J. Cruz crunched 2-1/2 years of school into four months. A former George Washington High School student, Cruz enrolled in Penn Foster High, an online school, on Jan. 28, 2019. He graduated as a senior on May 30, 2019.
Penn Foster High costs $1,315 a year with monthly payments as low as $49, according to the institution's website. The high school is affiliated with Penn Foster College, a for-profit school.
The high school is nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and the AdvancED Accreditation Commission, the website states. It is regionally accredited by the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
The high school program consists of 16.5 core credits and five elective credits. There are 19 electives available, ranging from auto repair technician to veterinary assistant.
It was back in November 2018 when Cruz first emailed his concerns on Guam high school curriculum to Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez. Cruz still attended GW at that time.
The GDOE superintendent responded that he understood Cruz's point of view, but it also raised the question of what should be taught at home as opposed to school. The exchange at the time had sparked a Twitter thread under Fernandez's response where people exchanged their views on the matter.
Cruz then decided to switch to an online home school. "I felt I wasn’t learning enough on a daily basis," he said.
Other reasons include self-discipline, as he admitted to being distracted by friends, and a desire to repay his grandmother for her support.
“Everything about me, including my success, is all because of her,” the 16-year-old said.
Cruz said his "grams" was always by his side.
"The times (when) I felt like I wasn’t gonna make it or felt like giving up, she pushed me to move forward. She motivated me to prosper and achieve my goals, and for that, I’m forever grateful," he said.
Lessons weren't the only hard part about online home school. In the process, he admitted he grew distant from some of his good friends, but he soon realized it was OK.
"My education and obligations come first before anything. My homies will always be there, and I’ll always be there for them," Cruz said.
Despite the sacrifices, the experience was beneficial.
Cruz described Penn Foster as a great school where he felt that he learned more than in his previous school. On top of the convenience of being able to access it anywhere with an internet connection and learn at his own pace, his teachers were always there to assist him alone via webcam.
With high school done, Cruz plans to get his driver's license and work toward his dream career of being a wheeled vehicle mechanic for the U.S. Army.
The young man gave a few words of encouragement to his peers. He said, "Have fun when the time is right, but be serious and devoted to learning. Knowledge is power.”