Alyssa Sutton

LA GRANDE — When 15-year-old Henry Fager entered a video in a national competition, he wasn’t sure what the result would be.

As it turns out, the La Grande teen was one of the 15 national finalists, and the only finalist from Oregon.

The contest Fager entered, sponsored by Choices in Education, asked participants, including students and education professionals, to record a two-minute video that described how having a choice of schools is improving education for children, families and their community. According to its website, Choices in Education supports the freedom of students and their families to choose an education that best suits their needs. The focus of the organization is non-traditional education. The videos that were submitted were judged based on the sincerity and passion of the content, and the contest offered cash prizes for three grand prize winners, three runner-ups and two people’s choice winners.

In his video, Fager explains how he has struggled in school throughout the years. He and his family tried private and public schools as well as homeschooling. When he was in the ninth grade, he was diagnosed with
inattentive attention
deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

“I wasn’t surprised (with the diagnosis),” Fager said in his video. “It showed me that I learn in different ways than most people, and that’s okay. Everyone learns in different ways, and the traditional (way) wasn’t the way I learned best.”

Fager is now a sophomore at Baker Web Academy, an online school based in Baker City that offers free tuition to Oregon residents. BWA provides online classes, teacher support, technology and face-to-face learning opportunities. According to the school’s website, the goal of the program is to give students different learning options and to personalize their education.

Fager said attending BWA has resulted in his best academic performance thus far.

“I can control my work environment, the pace and the classes,” Fager said in his video. “I still have to try extra hard, but the difference is now hard work is having a positive impact on my grades.”

Fager found out about the video competition when one of his teachers emailed a link to students.

Fager told The Observer that although he thought the judges of the competition would appreciate his message, “I didn’t think much would come of it.”

He said he feels “honored” to have been chosen as a finalist.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer