KNAPPA — As a kindergartner at Hilda Lahti Elementary School in Knappa, Mikayla Rethati said, she was academically in second grade, having fun at school then going home to an advanced curriculum with her mother.
After learning she couldn’t skip grades, her mother asked her whether she wanted to stay in kindergarten or try to learn from home. The deciding factor in choosing to stay at home, Rethati said, was being able to hang out with her pets.
Now 16, Rethati graduated Saturday in Salem from the Oregon Connections Academy, part of about 400 students who finished high school this year through the online charter school.
“It’s a really easy school to be in, because you can do whatever class you want,” she said. “I don’t think I’d do as well in an environment where I wasn’t allowed to control what I was learning.”
Rethati credits her mother, Beverly Nelson, for keeping her on track. Her brother, Zack, 12, is also involved with the online school and recently tested into the ninth grade.
Although she opted to learn online, Rethati has remained involved with the Knappa School District, playing softball in every grade except sixth. She is also a counselor at Camp Kiwanilong, volunteers during skate nights at the Astoria Armory and likes to photograph concerts.
Rethati made the Knappa High School’s varsity softball team at 13, when she was already 5 feet 8 inches. She was a designated hitter and made the all-league second team as a senior this season. One upsetting aspect of graduating early is she can no longer play for the school, she said.
Rethati earned 12 dual high school and college credits through the academy and plans to continue her studies at Clatsop Community College. She will then transfer to a university to study clinical psychology, an interest she said was born of her own experiences studying independently.
“I’ve always been interested in psychology, because of the whole accelerated learning thing,” she said. “I started thinking about it at 14. Why am I ahead (in) grades? Why are these other kids smart and not doing the same thing?”