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Class of 2020: Michelle Donaghy

Michelle finds a passion for business and graduates at 15

As a girl who was tall and smart, Michelle found herself the target of teasing from her first day in kindergarten in a brick-and-mortar school. Her teacher didn’t help the situation. Michelle’s mother quickly discerned the problem – “because she’s awesome that way,” says her daughter – and transferred her to CCA.

“And it clicked,” Michelle says. Now, in an incredible feat, Michelle is graduating from CCA at age 15 – even younger than an older sister who also graduated early from CCA.

Even Michelle isn’t entirely sure how this came about. She can’t remember whether she skipped fifth or sixth grade. She remembers that the normal ninth-grade course load would have been too boring, so she piled on additional credits. When they said she needed only one more English class to skip 10th grade, she figured she might as well.

CCA’s flexible schedule allows students to work at their own pace, including warp speed. “If you put your mind to it, you can actually achieve anything,” Michelle says.

A full load of clubs and activities rounded out Michelle’s coursework. She has been involved as an officer or a member of the National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America and Youth in Government.

“All the clubs and societies have helped me grow,” she says.

Her mom, Ana, saw the difference.

“CCA benefits her with the opportunity for a personalized education,” Ana says. “She has been able to move ahead, pursue dual enrollment, have an internship at an aquaponics lab, pursue leadership to help other students and volunteer at the library. She grew to be independent. CCA has helped her with better time management and career readiness.”

That internship with AgWorks at CCA™, CCA’s innovative aquaponics learning lab, was especially powerful in building Michelle’s communications and leadership skills. AgWorks at CCAinterns hear from professionals in the agribusiness sector, teaching Michelle about the intricate ties between agriculture and commerce.

“It’s like a cycle,” she says. “If one person doesn’t do their part, then no one else can. It’s like the food chain. If one part is removed, it comes crumbling down.”

CCA’s rich array of field trips added another real-world layer to Michelle’s education. She could have fun and take a break from textbooks while still feeding her curious mind. She has been horseback riding and zip-lining. She also dissected a frog and a pig heart.

Although Michelle knows that online learning requires self-discipline, she urges families to try it.

“You may end up liking it,” she says. “You may end up liking the flexibility.”

CCA graduation speakers were selected from among students who submitted a speech for consideration. Michelle decided to try because she was the last of her family to be graduating from high school, and she wanted to give them something to remember. She reflected on the way she emerged from a sense of guilt after the deaths of her grandparents when a counselor told her she wasn’t at fault – that “it’s not what you could have done but rather what you will do and how you will change to become a better person.”

In her graduation speech, she advised her classmates to “keep moving forward. No matter what happens in life, you’ve just got to get up and keep trying.”

For parents seeking a safe, at-home environment for students eager to learn, “CCA is for you,” Ana says.

At CCA, students explore the world of careers waiting for them, “so when you get to your senior year, you know what to do.” That’s why Michelle is entering Central Penn College to major in business administration. She is fascinated by the power of business to drive economic and social change. Her CCA personal finance goal helped spark her interest in business.

“I kind of fell in love with what they were teaching,” she says. She found all the “fun business facts” so interesting that she took a Harrisburg Area Community College course to learn more, and it helped shape her plans to pursue a business career.

As she prepares to enter college, Michelle will, once again, have a head start toward her degree. Through CCA’s College in the High School program, she accumulated 30 college credits. CCA, she says, gave her “everything” for going forward, especially with its emphasis on career exploration and career choices.

“They prepare you so well,” she says. “That’s one thing that CCA does differently than any other school.”




June 26th, 2020


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