troxellNinth grade PALCS student Wilder Troxell was a dancer from the moment he was born. His mother, Lisa Lovelace, who is also a dancer, has always encouraged her two children to appreciate the arts. “Wilder has a passion for dance. I started both of my children at a young age with creative movement.” The whole family was involved with Lisa’s studio, with Wilder participating in performances as early as six months old. “In the last couple of years, he fell in love with hip hop.”

Lisa had heard of Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School (PALCS) through her work and even referred a friend to their Center for Performing and Fine Arts (CPFA) as a creative outlet for her daughter, Brenna’s artistic passion. Years later, she found that same need in her son.

Before PALCS, Wilder attended his local public middle school. “When he was at school, the peer pressure was strong and while he is very confident, he struggled. He became very guarded.” Lisa knew they needed to be a change, so she called Brenna to learn more about her experience. After hearing glowing reviews, she decided to make the switch.

She smiles as she describes the change in Wilder since enrolling at CPFA, “He is open once again and a free-spirit. He laughs a lot and has the freedom to be himself. Not only does he have that freedom, but at CPFA, it’s embraced and celebrated. He is no longer just surviving; he is enjoying himself.”

Wilder receives straight As on his report card, in part as a result of his parents’ flexible schedules. Lisa is a professor at West Chester University and his dad, Richard Troxell, is an international opera singer. As his mother describes, “Wilder eats lunch with us. We see what he’s learning. We can help relate it to the rest of our lives and be more connected to his education.”

While she knows that a potential drawback of online learning can be isolation, she sees this as an opportunity to invest time outside of traditional education; in Wilder’s case, that’s dance, theatre and music. It is no small task to juggle his academics and artistic pursuits, but Lisa believes structure is one of the keys. “The mantra with Wilder is that he has to complete today’s work, today. I look every day to see what Wilder is doing and how he is doing.”

While he does sometimes fall behind on the days he attends CPFA, Lisa and Richard help him catch up in the evenings or on weekends. “On Monday I make him a chart of his week and the lessons he needs to complete. It helps it stay concrete for him.” Wilder enthusiastically crosses off assignments on the chart. Lisa continues, “In many ways I feel more connected with Wilder’s teachers now than when he was enrolled in traditional school. It’s interesting how for being in cyber school, you feel connected. I wouldn’t expect that. I think it is really great.”

Lisa appreciates the culture of the school. “There is an upbeat attitude. Whenever I call, PALCS is always ready and willing to help. That goes a long way. While the teachers do have 24 hours to get back to us, I have found them very accessible and they often answer the phone when I call or return my call within a few hours.” She values their willingness for open communication.

When asked if there are any changes she would make if she could, Lisa laughs and responds, “Add snow days.”