Never Underestimate the Power of Electives

Ellie Zanegood is a 16-year-old senior enrolled in FLVS Flex as a homeschool student. She has successfully completed two of our Mawi Learning courses, Peer Counseling 1 and Career Research and Decision Making.

Ellie credits these FLVS elective classes for teaching her to reach for her dreams and develop resilience.

These courses taught Ellie to learn from her mistakes, set long- and short-term goals, and to ask strong questions in all that she does, both in school and out! Being a teenager is hard enough, but especially so when considering added stress from the current environment, college entrance exams, college admission applications, and more.

Planning Ahead for College

Ellie never once considered what she was learning in her Mawi courses would have an impact on her road to studying at a university. She felt taking these electives would just be quick and easy classes to achieve her goal to graduate high school. Those pesky elective credits took time away from her beloved core coursework because, in her mind, those were more important. It wasn’t until she was faced with the harsh realities of college admissions decisions that she would feel the overwhelming need to lean on what she learned in those two electives.

In January of 2020, Ellie was crushed to learn she had not been accepted into Florida State University, the school she dreamed of attending. She had the test scores, grades, and solid resume to meet the entrance requirements, but with 60,000 applications for 20,000 freshman openings, she was one of the unfortunate students declined. It was a hard pill to swallow.

It took her a few days to overcome the disappointment she felt, but she asked her mom the question, “Why didn’t I get into FSU?” If there was one thing she learned in her time in the two Mawi courses, it was to ask strong questions. Ellie needed to know why. She and her mom drafted an email to FSU admissions and explained her situation. I’ll share the result of their email efforts in a bit.

Elective Courses Spark Student Interests

FLVS offers five highly engaging courses in the “FLVS Mawi Schoolhouse.” The courses (Critical Thinking, Career Research and Decision Making, Leadership, Peer Counseling 1 and Peer Counseling 2) are described in detail on our website.

Students who enroll in these courses have an FLVS instructor who has been certified by Mawi Learning and is passionate about the content those courses deliver.

Mrs. Jeri Cochi, a long time Mawi course instructor shares:

“My students feel that the course helps them open up conversations with people they normally would be too afraid to. They also feel that setting MAD Goals, (MAD stands for: Measurable, Attainable, and Deadline Driven), gives them a base from which to live their lives and hold them accountable to themselves for their own.”

These are truly valuable lessons that all students should acquire while in school!

The instructors who teach the Mawi courses are a dynamic and enthusiastic team indeed. Their passion for the course content can be felt by the students who take their classes. It is not uncommon for students to complete one Mawi course only to request to take another!

Instructional Leader Mrs. Gisela Delgado, who heads the Mawi team of instructors shared her feelings:

“What is truly amazing about the Mawi content is that it is ageless! Our teachers takeaway just as much from the valuable concepts as our students do. In our schoolhouse, Mawi instructors practice grit and growth mindset everyday as well as frequently pressing their inner Turbo Button when faced with a challenge! When you teach any of the Mawi courses, your entire perspective on achieving your dreams and being your best transforms.”

Taking the Next Step

Two days after learning that she had been declined by one of the top universities in the state of Florida, Ellie began to draw upon the student/life skills she acquired while enrolled in FLVS Mawi courses. She reflected on the coping skills for the stress that she was feeling and began to practice the strategies she read about.

Ellie exercised daily, took deep cleansing breathes when overcome with emotion or stress, and talked about her feelings with her family. As each day passed Ellie felt better and she began to consider the four other Florida universities that accepted her. “My future was bright. I knew it. I just had to redirect my focus and get excited for my second school of choice,” Ellie explained.

Ellie wanted to share her experience with others and how she used her Mawi coping skills to focus on success, though it was at a different university. She participated in an interview with Channel 10 Miami and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Bober to encourage her high school peers to focus on the positive aspects of their lives and not dwell on the challenges, if possible.

The interview on topic of test stress, college admissions, and resilience was picked up by sister television stations in Jacksonville, Florida and Detroit, Michigan. A timely topic, indeed.

Ellie’s use of asking strong questions, taught in the Mawi courses, in her email to FSU admissions paid off! Twelve days after having her application declined by Florida State University, her file was reviewed and she was accepted for fall 2020. She plans to study psychology with the hope of attending John’s Hopkins Medical School to study forensic psychiatry.

Exploring online education options? Florida Virtual School may be just the solution for you. Learn more about how learning meets life with Florida Virtual School.


Dr. Jeanne GiardinoDr. Jeanne Giardino, FLVS Parenting Skills instructor, has a true passion for all things literacy. She enjoys the collaborative process in promoting reading in all aspects of virtual education. Having held a variety of positions with FLVS since 2006, she brings a global perspective to her current position. After 20 years in the field of education, she maintains a wealth of literacy knowledge and enthusiasm for student success.



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