It was one of those brilliant Autumn mornings when the mesmerizing blue sky and the crisp, frigid air seemed to be having a cosmic thumb war. There were pumpkins scattered willy nilly around the bustling barnyard like someone kicked over a giant orange gumball machine, and a happy-go-lucky rockabilly band was roaring out their tunes with remarkable enthusiasm. I’ve possibly never heard someone sing with that much passion at 10:00 AM.
It was the Great Pumpkin Festival at Maybury Farms (a classic Fall harvest shindig), and the place was abuzz with harvesty fun. It was also the first time I met Makena Osborne.
Makena is a special kid. It’s hard to describe the way it feels the first time you (as an educated adult) meet a 3rd grader with a vocabulary that’s bigger than your own. (Only a mild exaggeration.) I think I went a little tongue tied for a few seconds. Makena is bright, socially confident beyond her years, articulate, and unflappably buoyant. After I scraped my jaw up off the ground, I decided she might be one of the most uniquely mature 8-year-olds I’d ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Meet Makena: smart, kind, and articulate beyond her years. This picture was snapped during an upcoming MIPS video spotlight.
Makena only just switched to MIPS in September, and in many ways, she’s already become a model online student. She keeps up with her classes, stays in regular contact with her mentor, and has a healthy blend of extracurricular interests.
One of Makena’s favorite activities is geocaching - a gargantuan, app-based treasure hunt for hidden containers stuffed with assorted goodies. It’s like the more earthy, non-nerdy predecessor to Pokemon Go. Makena’s grandma introduced geocaching to the family, and it’s since become a favorite diversion.
Makena also likes zoology. If it has to do with learning about animals, Makena is there with foam fingers and face paint. She enjoys visiting the zoo, and only last month, she participated in a squid dissection. (Yes, you read that correctly). I ran the numbers, and it turns out you don’t sign up for one of those unless you’re (a) unusually brave, (b) intelligent, and (c) insatiably curious.
But Makena doesn’t want to just learn about animals. Her current dream job? Rescuing injured animals at Seaworld. Apparently her heart is just as big as her personality.
As a MIPS student, Makena makes good use of the unique opportunities and resources available to her. Her free time is a balanced blend of technology, learning, and “old fashioned” outdoorsy adventure. Whether she’s playing Prodigy (a computer game that incorporates fun math activities), or gardening with her grandpa and younger brother, Braxton, Makena enjoys a vibrant, learning-saturated lifestyle.
We’ll interrupt our normal programming here to give a nod to the founder of the feast. It should go without saying, but a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle like Makena’s doesn’t happen by accident. Makena’s mom is a proactive home educator who clearly recognizes the open-ended nature of a virtual education. We think it’s important to recognize her diligence and vision in this spotlight as well. Kids are a billion times more likely to succeed when parents are present and involved, and Makena has the odds stacked in her favor. Way to go, mom!
**Resume normal programming**
Makena is also no shirk in the classroom. We asked her what advice she would give to new virtual learners. Her secret to scholarly success? Ask for help! Many students grind to a halt at the first sign of adversity, because they either don’t know how to find support, or they’re too unmotivated or too embarrassed to ask for it. At MIPS, there’s no reason for this to happen. We offer our students numerous lines of support, and Makena isn’t afraid or embarrassed to use them. She knows her “awesome teacher,” Mallory Skilling, is only an email, text, or call away.
Makena’s only in 3rd grade, but she has her eye on big goals. She’s personable, motivated, compassionate, and sharp as a tack. We’re confident she’ll accomplish amazing things in life, and we’re beyond proud to be a part of her story.
From the entire MIPS team - we’re all rooting for you, Makena! We know you're going to go far. Keep crushing it.