Student Success Story: How Personalized, Competency-Based Education Helps One Student Share His Passion With the World

Lewis Cha, Graduate of Lindsay Unified School District, Lindsay, California

Topics: Overcoming Challenges

“I’ll be able to have my passion transformed into something that I can share with the whole world.” - Lewis Cha “I’ll be able to have my passion transformed into something that I can share with the whole world.”

Where passion and community meets learning

When Lewis Cha was seven years old, his mother suffered a stroke. He and his family moved from Long Beach, California to Lindsay, California to better support her recovery. According to Cha, who was the one to find his mother when she had the stroke, “it’s a wonder to have her here.”

“I love her determination to keep on fighting. I think she would probably tell me that being determined is the best skill that you will ever have in life,” Cha said. Though his mother can walk and is doing well, she cannot speak.

Cha is a junior at Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD), and considers himself to be a typical student, if a very passionate and hardworking one. A “computer geek” who is interested in videography and video game creation as well as the industry side of game design, Cha appreciates the opportunity to explore his passions while also relying on his skills to help others both in class and out. “What I love is that everyone here can be their unique self, progress and move on as they please,” Cha said, highlighting the competency-based environment that empowers students to own their learning.

“I’ll be able to have my passion transformed into something that I can share with the whole world.” - Lewis Cha “When we moved here from Long Beach, I lost all of my friends,” Cha said, who grew to regard the move as “a way to rebuild my life.” Acclimating to a new place, learning to support his mother and making new friends have all made him the person and learner that he is today. He cites the passion that his educators have for their work, and their capacity to recognize and encourage him and his peers in pursuing their passions, as well.

Cha had the opportunity recently to participate in INTERNNECT, a cross-county regional design competition and internship program where teams of educators and learners submit proposals to be reviewed by industry professionals. LUSD promotes opportunities like INTERNNECT to give their learners the opportunity to lead and learn beyond the classroom, satisfying not only specific learning targets and standards, but also proving that they can contribute meaningfully to their communities.

And because LUSD is a competency-based system, Cha has had the opportunity to accelerate his learning in engineering and design, enabling him to create a 3D world for the design competition, while taking extra time, when needed, for other subjects. “In Lindsay, I’ve noticed a change. If I finish a subject early, I could move on right away,” said Cha, who also notes the inverse: if he hasn’t mastered something, he doesn’t move on, but gets the support and resources he needs to get their on his own time.

While he was frustrated by getting “swept under the rug” in the more traditional learning environments of his youth, Cha’s passion for learning and the impact of LUSD’s positive learning environment is obvious when he quotes Einstein.

“Einstein once said that education is what remains after what you’ve forgotten from school. That quote helps me get motivated, to gain as much knowledge as possible,” Cha said, echoing the determination he credits his mother for.

When Cha thinks about his future and his dreams of becoming the first person in his family to attend a four-year university, he’s excited and hopeful.

He intends to double major in multimedia and interactive media design, and hopes to become a graphic designer. He already gives back at school and in his community, sharing his interests and helping with photo and video editing; college will
mean even more opportunities.

“The passion that I have gained here has shaped my personality into what I am right now, a passionate learner,” said Cha. “I’ll be able to have my passion transformed into something that I can share with the whole world.”

Supported students are successful students

LUSD’s focus not only on the academic performance of their learners, but their development as a whole person and the unique challenges and needs they bring into the classroom, contributes to an environment that empowers and supports each learner every step along the way.

“Personalized learning is just that: it’s about the person,” says Robin Kanaan, director of teaching and learning with KnowledgeWorks.

But personalizing learning doesn’t mean collaboration, communication and community are any less important – it’s actually the opposite. “When a learner feels like a critical partner, when they can rely on others when they need it and support them when they don’t, they recognize the value they bring to a community. They want to give back.”