Head of the class

Vincent Varallo took matters into his own hands.

The traditional high school route just wasn’t working. And by junior year, the South Philly resident had reached a crossroad. Continue down a path that wasn’t yielding any results or happiness, or speak up and change things up. He chose the latter.

Varallo said he suffered from anxiety even before the pandemic, but it worsened during the shutdown. He decided to enroll at Agora Cyber Charter School, which is headquartered in King of Prussia but offers all its classes remotely. 

“Prior to, and especially during the pandemic, I didn’t feel my brick-and-mortar school was allowing me to be myself and reach my full educational potential,” Varallo said. “After enrolling at Agora, I was able to improve my academic career and gain more responsibilities,” 

Varallo isn’t just a success story after earning his diploma on June 2 during a live commencement ceremony in Hershey. He was named valedictorian, finishing with the highest grade point average among 596 students across the state.

“This honor wasn’t even in my imagination, but the freedom to choose classes at Agora was crucial, and my hard work paid off,” Varallo said. “Try your best, keep working hard and always be willing to make a change.”

Varallo earned a full scholarship to attend Neumann University in the fall, where he will study cyber security. He hopes to someday land a cyber security job, working for private companies, and finding flaws in systems to make improvements. Everything worked out well for Varallo, but thinking back on a tough decision about 18 months ago brings up some harsh memories.

“At the beginning, everyone questioned our decision,” said Varallo’s father Joseph. “ ‘Just get through the last year and a half,’ they said. He was experiencing anxiety even before the pandemic but it was exacerbated during the pandemic especially during the virtual trial at Catholic school. He took AP and honors courses but was still interacting with children who learn at different speeds/levels. Some teachers were more stoic and they catered more to the middle. People frowned on the move but after a while they saw the change in Vincent himself.”

Agora Cyber Charter School is an online public school serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade throughout Pennsylvania since 2005. Agora is a Pennsylvania public school of choice, as with all public schools there is no cost to the families, and like all public schools, tuition is paid by Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Students can choose from more than 80 electives that help shape career paths. The school believes that as the world becomes more technologically driven every day, students are better prepared for the future by participating in cyber education. 

Vincent followed the path of his older brother who suffers from a medical condition and needed online classes to graduate. Once he did, Vincent sought a similar path. 

“Agora has been really good to us,” Joseph Varallo said. “Their educational plans were different, but once Vincent got his feet wet, he dove into the deep end of the pool. We were happy he made the transition. He struggles with anxiety and having freedom of working at his own pace, alongside teachers who really care, it made the transition much easier. His anxiety subsided and it was off to the races from there.”