A parent’s story: New Mexico virtual charter school offers academic rigor, flexibility

Pecos Cyber Academy in Edgewood, New Mexico, is a free, public, online and virtual school that launched in 2016 as another choice for the state’s families. The academy opened with seven employees and 250 students and has grown to serve just under 2,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Editor’s note: This first-person essay from New Mexico mother Ashley Guerra was adapted from the American Federation for Children’s Voices for Choice website. You can learn more about Guerra’s family and her education choice journey by listening to a reimaginED podcast at http://www.reimaginedonline.org/2022/10/podcasted-new-mexico-siblings-enjoy-customized-education-thanks-to-multiple-choice-mom/.

Ashley Guerra

Education has always been a priority in our family. I was raised to value opportunities and work diligently to pursue areas that would allow me to contribute successfully to our community. As I grew up and became a mother, education remained an integral component of my life and a central focus in our family.

But our educational journey was interrupted when I was unexpectedly diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia during the summer between my son’s kindergarten and first grade years. Because of the aggressive nature of my specific type of leukemia, the intensive treatments would last for years, and we knew we needed to identify a new school model for our son.

We needed an educational environment to help him learn and keep me safe while my treatments continued. We were grateful to discover a new virtual public charter school, Pecos Cyber Academy, and enrolled him in this program.

We discovered this brand-new virtual public charter school that could be attended from anywhere, including our home in New Mexico, from a local public television commercial. The school featured a state-certified and nationally recognized curriculum that gave us access to incredibly talented, knowledgeable, and experienced certified teachers.

We chose this option because we felt confident it would provide our son with an excellent academic experience while ensuring he achieved the academic progress expected of him and his peers. We also were impressed with the flexibility it provided us to work around my treatment requirements and medical appointments.

Our son completed five years at Pecos Cyber Academy. In the years that followed, our daughter attended, and she now is starting her sixth year. Witnessing our children develop areas of specific interest, identify their subject strengths, learn personal accountability, and develop resilience in their learning process has been a true joy.

As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Each child is unique, their circumstances are distinct, and our education system should empower all to capitalize on their potential.

Providing academic options enables families to select for their children the school that will create the greatest opportunity to learn, grow, and become contributing members of our society. I believe that families should have the opportunity to seek out the best education option for their children and their circumstances.

The power to select your child’s educational structure creates equity in education and competition within the school system. As educational entities evolve through various academic models, school systems will promote even newer education models to their communities.

This will allow families to access a uniquely specific school program, resulting in a relationship of accountability and partnership between the school institution and the family/child. With this model, everyone wins – students, families, teachers, and the community.

We are grateful for this educational option and the positive results we’ve seen in our children’s academic learning, growth, retention, and enjoyment in the learning process.