Internship will help CCA learner focus her interest in computers

With her love for all things computer related, Erika Minnich isn’t sure if she will pursue a career in computer programming or computer design. An internship secured with help from Commonwealth Charter Academy should help her decide.

“Getting an internship will show me what I really like to do,” she said. “It will give me a real-world experience.”

Erika enrolled in Commonwealth Charter Academy in elementary school, after frustrating stints in a traditional brick-and-mortar school and a cyber charter school that communicated little with students and families. Enduring a debilitating autoimmune disorder diagnosed at age 4, Erika often found herself missing school, with little help catching up when she was back to health.

The frustration was too much, said her mom, Lisa Minnich.

“They were taking this straight-A honor student and putting her in low-level classes because she had missed so much school,” Lisa Minnich said. “CCA is the total opposite.”

Now a junior, Erika lives in Hamburg, Berks County, with her parents and younger sister, Jessie, also a CCA learner, along with four dogs, two cats and six birds. Her older sister, Amber, graduated from CCA in 2010 and teaches sixth grade in a Pennsylvania school district.

Erika is the kind of learner determined to get all A’s. CCA teachers gladly modify her schedule to accommodate bouts of illness, which can extend for weeks. The school provides the flexibility that the indefatigable Erika needs to pursue her interests and activities, including dance, high school orchestra, world travel, youth-group mission work in Trinidad, and jobs in fast-food restaurants and as a nanny.

One geometry teacher gave learners “notes for every single lesson with multiple ways to do the work,” Erika said. “That was the best math teacher I’ve ever had.”

When teachers take such initiative, learners build critical-thinking skills, Lisa Minnich said.

“They have to look,” she said. “They have to research.”

With CCA, Erika crafted a course load personalized to her interest in computers. In a 3-D modeling class, she was immersed in creating and animating characters, such as a monster smashing its way down the street.

Through CCA’s conservatory program, which focuses on job readiness, Erika learned and researched the elements of a strong resume and cover letter. She’s eyeing an internship with a trucking company, where she hopes to keep building her knowledge of computers and their real-world applications.

The internship “will definitely help her decide which direction to go,” her mom said. “If she wants to go into the engineering end of computer science or if she wants to go into programming, it’ll give her more direction.”

CCA has taught self-motivation to Erika and her sisters. “That’s going to bring so much into their college and work life,” Lisa Minnich said.

CCA has taught self-motivation to Erika and her sisters. “That’s going to bring so much into their college and work life,” Lisa Minnich said.

As she explores college options, Erika expects to continue applying the drive she adopted as a CCA learner.

“If you have that motivation to get things done, it’s going to show for the rest of your life,” she said.


High School Learner