#Classof2022 Graduate Finds Hope Through Connection
When Florida Virtual School graduate Hope Vichi was only 11 years old, she was given a medical diagnosis that forever changed her life. Through her positive spirit, her relentless pursuit of advocating for her health, and the support of her family and friends (especially her mom who advocated for her every day), Hope overcame challenge after challenge.
And now, after everything she’s been through, she wants to continue telling her story to connect with people who struggle with daily pain and illness, so that they know they are not alone and can make it through. Plus, by telling her story she hopes to spread awareness about her illness, as it’s considered an “invisible illness,” or one that cannot be seen, and isn’t as common for children her age.
Persevering Through Obstacles
In 2015, Hope and her family made a big change and moved from Oregon to Florida. It was during their drive across the country that she noticed a sore on her lower back. At first, she thought nothing of it, thinking it would go away on its own. But after a couple of weeks, the sore got bigger and more painful.
The sore, called a Pilonidal Cyst, ended up being cancerous and Hope was rushed into emergency surgery. Fortunately, the doctors were able to get all the cancer cells out, but unfortunately, they were unable to seal the wound. This meant she had to live with a home nurse, and couldn’t sit or lay down for long periods of time, impacting her everyday life, including school.
From 2015 to 2018, Hope continued to struggle with her health and was in and out of the hospital. It was during this time that she enrolled in Florida Virtual School. Becoming an FLVS student allowed her to do her schoolwork anywhere and at any time, so she didn’t have to miss days of school. She could also comfortably sit how she needed to in order to finish her work, which oftentimes was laying down to help with the pain.
Luckily, in late 2018, Hope had a surgery, called a Cleft Lift Procedure, that sealed her wound and gave her back control over her life.
Finding Hope Through Connection
At first, Hope was worried that by switching to an online school she would miss out on social interactions. But what she found was the opposite – Florida Virtual School gave her human connection and hope during a time when she felt hopeless due to her health.
Even when she was bedridden and didn’t turn on her camera during live lessons, she felt the support from her teachers and classmates.
“There are silent battles we all deal with, and I’ll never forget the day I learned that lesson,” said Hope. “At the beginning of one of my live lessons, my teacher encouraged students to vent about anything that was bothering us. Even though the students that spoke were at a different place in their life than me, knowing that they were dealing with challenges of their own, whether that was a physical, emotional, or mental challenge, was so comforting to me.”
Even though Hope had no control over being sick, she felt she had control over her learning. For example, due to doctor’s appointments and traveling, there were times when Hope’s illness interfered with her schoolwork. With the flexibility of Florida Virtual School, she was able to balance and finish her assignments. She would also communicate any delays with her teachers, and they always helped with her individual needs and worked around her schedule.
“Think about what it would be like to be a middle school student who must stand while everyone else is sitting – it’s awkward and makes you feel out of place,” said Hope. “Florida Virtual School never made me feel different. Instead, it showed me that there is no normal or abnormal, and that we’re all dealing with our own personal challenges.”
Designing a Future That’s Bright
Outside of the classroom, Hope is a passionate volunteer for Give Kids the World, a nonprofit resort in Central Florida that provides week-long, cost-free vacations to children with critical illnesses to provide families with joyful moments.
“When I was at my sickest, I liked doing fun activities with kids my own age because it made me feel excited, and therefore the pain wasn’t my first thought anymore. That’s what I like about volunteering at Give Kids the World – it allows kids to have fun and focus on being a kid!” said Hope.
And now, just a few years later, Hope is graduating from Florida Virtual School with only four more college classes left to get her associates degree thanks to her dual enrollment with Polk State. Her future plans include finishing her associates degree at Polk State and then attending a four-year college like the University of Central Florida.
“No matter what I do or where I go, I want to inspire others by helping them find joy in the little things.”
Sometimes, all people need is a little Hope.
Make the most of next school year with flexible, full-service online learning at Florida Virtual School. FLVS Full Time enrollment is now open for the 2022-23 school year. Head to flvs.net/full-time/enrollment to get started. Or if you’re interested in individual online courses, FLVS Flex is open year-round at flvs.net/flex/enroll.
Congratulations, FLVS Class of 2022!
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