New to PALCS this year is 9th grade student Rachel Stern, a 14-year-old ballerina with the School of Pennsylvania Ballet, from Montgomery County. As a dedicated dancer, Rachel and her family needed to free up more time during the day for training, but making sure that they found an exceptional and challenging academic program for their daughter was just as important. We recently spoke to Rachel’s mother, Jennifer, about what all went into making sure PALCS was the right fit for Rachel.

As Jennifer was doing research into public cyber school options in the state of Pennsylvania, her primary criteria were looking for a flexible schedule that maintained challenging, high academic standards. After asking around, Jennifer and Rachel were directed to PALCS or, as Jennifer puts it, “it was serendipitous word of mouth.”

They specifically heard about the blended programs here at PALCS, such as our Center for Preforming and Fine Arts (CPFA) and our University Scholars Program (USP). Although, CPFA’s schedule would not be compatible with Rachel’s outside dance regimen, Rachel and her mom did show great interest in the honors college-preparatory program, known as USP. After applying to USP and being accepted, Rachel and Jennifer were still concerned with scheduling conflicts between Rachel’s ballet training and the USP blended program. They really wanted Rachel to participate in USP blended and take advantage of the on-site interaction and rigorous curriculum.

After speaking with the encouraging team at USP, Rachel and her mom decided to give it a try. “The few schedule conflicts we have encountered so far have been managed with a lot of understanding. It has been a big relief. And it is working out very well so far,” explained Jennifer, “the schoolwork is challenging and the teaching his high-quality. She gets a lot of feedback–it’s more than we expected,” she continued.

Since enrolling with PALCS, Rachel has been able to dance almost twice as many hours per day as last year, and because she has the flexibility to take her schoolwork with her on the go, she is getting it all done at a reasonable time. Before transferring to PALCS, Jennifer said that Rachel would have to wait to eat dinner until after 9:30 every night, after finishing dance and schoolwork. Now as a PALCS and USP student, Rachel gets to eat dinner and get to sleep at a reasonable and healthy hour each night, both of which are extremely important to Rachel and her family.

As for Rachel’s ballet and dance career, she has been at the School of Pennsylvania Ballet for going on 7 years and has performed with the company in productions of The Nutcracker, as well as several times in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Academy of Music and on tour at the Kennedy Center in DC. This will be her 7th year in The Nutcracker and has had the honor of playing various roles, including the primary role of Marie, the little girl who dreams of the Nutcracker prince, and most recently danced as a Candy Cane in a performance excerpt in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Rachel has worked with PB II, which is the Ballet’s second company, and has been performing in Snow White, with the most recent performances being at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Snow White will hold additional performances this coming Spring, including some performances at the Prince Theater in Philadelphia and community outreach performances.

Rachel is not only a dedicated and self-disciplined dancer, but also and excellent student with whom the PALCS instructors have been very impressed. Here at PALCS, we are so proud to have Rachel represent our school and show that PALCS can help make it possible, along with a lot of hard work, time, and dedication on her part. As Rachel’s mother explained, there “are disappointments for every success for these kids, working towards a professional ballet career. It is a struggle, but PALCS is helping make the struggle possible, and for that, we are really grateful,” said Jennifer in closing.

We would like to thank Rachel and her mother Jennifer for taking the time to share their story and PALCS journey with us thus far. We want to wish Rachel all the luck in her upcoming performances and with the rest of this wonderful school year!