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Sterling Academy Starts Student-Driven Website

Leona Kim

Principal J Lee Harshbarger, inspired by student Connor's suggestion, built a new website with a dedicated team of student volunteers! Connor, a self-taught coder and designer, led the tech side, while writers like Sophia, Leona, and Zoe shared diverse perspectives from across the US and 13 countries. This website aims to connect students and showcase Sterling Academy's unique global community.

Principal J Lee Harshbarger, whose office is in Ypsilanti, Michigan, took the steps to make the website a reality after Connor Jacobsen, a freshman from Sacramento, California, expressed interest in creating one on the student chat line with the school. After Mr. Harshbarger followed up with a solicitation on Connor’s interest, he received an abundance of volunteer support from Sophia Kindel, a freshman from Scottsdale, Arizona; Leona Kim, a senior from Busan, Korea; Adan Barrera, a seventh grader from Panama City, Florida; Elise Betts, a seventh grader from Charleston, South Carolina; Sara Ryman, a sophomore from Ashland, Pennsylvania; Adam Fletcher, an eighth grader from Alberta, Canada; Zoe Raymond, a junior from Orange County, California; Hailey Wallett, a junior from Ocala, Florida; and faculty member Bob Strodtbeck from Orlando, Florida.

Mr. Harshbarger said the school website should help students feel connected in a community, rather than isolated in their homes.

“For future students, when they see what's on our student website, it helps them have a sense of what our students are like and the sense of community we have…so this would be something special for us — potential students could feel a connection with us and want to join.”

Connor taught himself graphic-design and code through w3schools and, stating, “I actually taught myself by simply opening the command prompt…and figured more and more ways to use different languages of code and making them interact with each other for a variety of different uses, from attaching passwords to web pages, accessing documents, [to] editing web pages.”

Sophia is a writer who was one of the first to express interest in creating the student website.

Leona works as a writer who came along to participate in the student website in hopes of expanding the school’s recognition and reaching out to students who are living in turbulent environments.

Adan is a self-taught writer and artist who joined the student website because he believes it would be a good experience on writing and volunteering on making Sterling Academy a community.

Elise is a first-time graphic designer who decided to contribute to the student website because she saw an announcement on the school discussion board and hopes to communicate with students.

Sara is a web-designer and writer who joined in the student website project because she believed it would be a great opportunity to put her designing and writing skills to good use.

Adam decided to join in the project as an image locater for the student website for a pleasant experience.

Zoe is a writer who wanted to contribute to the student website in order to provide a thought-provoking perspective on cultural diversity and the controversy it entails.

Hailey joined as a writer because she wants to keep the community informed and introduce them to new societal issues.

Mr. Strodtbeck was involved with his high school and college newspapers and earned a minor in Journalism from Ball State University.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Sterling Academy is one of 476 virtual schools in the United States.


Although Sterling’s demographics shift as enrollment changes, the school currently boasts of students from 41 states, 1 US territory (Virgin Islands), and 13 countries (excluding the United States).

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