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Ice hockey, cyber school transform fifth-grader

A traditional public school wasn’t the best fit for Albert Eschert.

The young Kensington resident had a reading disorder, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, a combination that made traditional schooling more challenging than a classroom could provide.

A typical neighborhood public school just wasn’t properly equipped to effectively teach the then-first-grader. With the demands of teaching other pupils, Eschert’s conditions were too much of a distraction.

In late 2019, Eschert’s parents found a possible solution in the Agora Cyber Charter School. Eschert was enrolled at Agora in January 2020, mere months before the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Once Eschert enrolled, his coaches and teachers effectively diagnosed his reading disability and formulated an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that would enable him to progress academically at the same rate as his peers in the first grade. Additionally, Agora’s learn-from-home virtual model, along with a dedicated family coach, developed strategies to lessen his anxiety and OCD issues.

“The support has been awesome, and he has definitely improved,” Albert’s mother, Amy, said. “The IEP and other supports have given him what he needed to be better in life and school. We have loved every experience we’ve had at Agora so far. He has come out of his shell a lot more and is making friends wherever he goes, including making a really close Agora friend who lives in the middle of the state.”

As part of his holistic educational program, Eschert was encouraged to pursue one of his passions, ice hockey. Eschert had been taught to skate by his father but actually playing hockey became a challenge that was too big to overcome.

Enter Ed Snider Youth Hockey and Education. Developed by the former Flyers owner as a way to help bring ice hockey to Philadelphia youths, the program teaches the sport while prioritizing education.

Eschert’s steady progress at Agora allowed him to learn the sport, develop his skills and play with his peers. A succession of outstanding report cards from Agora ensured that Eschert would easily meet the Snider program’s requirements.

“Until Agora, hockey was the only area of Albert’s life where he was able to accept mistakes,” Amy Eschert said. “Alby went up through the ranks with the program. With Learn to Skate and then Learn to Play, he developed and has been playing in leagues. It has been so amazing for him, and he loves it so much. Now, between hockey and school with Agora, he’s having great success managing anxiety.”

Now a fifth-grader, Eschert’s academic and social progress has been astounding. Thanks to Agora’s at-home program, Eschert has been able to seamlessly incorporate his hockey practices and games into his schedule, all while leaving time to attack his studies.

Earlier this winter, Eschert saw one of his dreams come to life when he was part of a 30-player group from Ed Snider Youth Hockey and Education that traveled to Washington, D.C. for a hockey outing with former Flyers John LeClair and Brad Marsh.

The group toured several national monuments in the nation’s capital and concluded with ice time with LeClair and Marsh at the ice rink on the South Lawn of the White House.

None of Eschert’s achievements would have been possible without a strong home life, the tailored educational experience his conditions require and the additional structure provided by the Ed Snider hockey program.

“I’ve seen a positive change in Albert since starting at Agora,” Amy Eschert said. “I don’t know what we would have done without the cyber school option. I hear nightmare stories from parents at brick-and-mortar schools. But Albert is thriving. We appreciate all that Agora has done, and continues to do, for us.” ••

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