Parker Wallace has targeted his career goals with the same steady aim and precision that has made him a top marksman.
The eLearning Academy senior has designed a seven-year plan to take him into the medical profession. The academy's flexible schedule has allowed Parker to take outside courses and graduate May 15 from an emergency medical technician (EMT) class. He will be ready to apply for an EMT position as soon as he receives his Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools diploma June 14.
"I'm an actual EMT now and it feels nice," Parker said. "I'm not sure how I would have gotten on this path if I hadn't changed schools. I'm so very thankful I was able to."
Parker originally attended Ardrey Kell High but switched to the virtual high school to accommodate his passion for competitive shooting. He has won many first-place awards in the sport and missed classes due to the travel demands of competition. Parker did fine in school but was unable to meet the seat-time requirement. That is not an issue with online learning, where students work from home and classes are flexible and personalized. A teacher is always available by phone, text, email or other online options.
Parker originally wanted to become an engineer like his father but then decided on the medical profession. He consulted Renea Stitt, the academy's career development coordinator, about taking classes at Central Piedmont Community College. She suggested that he become an EMT instead.
"He selected the EMT pathway because he said he could finish that and help people this summer before going to college," Stitt said. "I was immediately impressed with his desire to help others first instead of thinking of himself. I thought, 'What a terrific doctor he would make.' He recently emailed me because I told him I had another student interested in the program and he wanted me to know that he was available to talk to them – again thinking of helping others."
Parker attended classes two days a week for a semester to become an EMT. Following his EMT class graduation, he passed the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians test and the state certification exam. Once he has his diploma, he can apply for an EMT position.
"Obviously, without some flexibility in my schedule, this wouldn't have been possible," Parker said. "I have a plan and I definitely wanted to get all this done fast."
Parker's plan is to become a physician assistant (PA). He will take a year off to work full-time as an EMT and to volunteer at a fire department, which will give him patient hours that are required for a PA graduate program.
Parker wants to continue his education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and earn an undergraduate degree in biology. By staying in the area for four years, he can continue to participate in competitive shooting and to work as much as possible. For graduate school, he is aiming to attend either the University of Florida or Emory University.
"I won't be able to work when I'm in graduate school – it's a very intense program," Parker said. "I'm also considering medical school because at that point, why not? I have a lot of different options."
When Principal Tracey Pickard first met Parker, she said he was very quiet and reserved. But his confidence and focus as a student academically and personally became obvious over time. She said his meeting with Stitt about other options ignited another spark in him.
"Parker is an amazing young man," Pickard said. "His focus and commitment have truly inspired me as an educator. The flexibility of eLearning Academy allowed him to create his own path and we celebrate this accomplishment that represents the power of options and personalization."
Parker wrote to Stitt after his EMT class graduation to thank her for directing him to the EMT course. "I wouldn't have been able to do this without eLearning," he wrote.
"It is a valuable tool if you need to use it and you use it correctly," Parker said. "It allowed me to do things I wanted to do."
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