Student Stories and Testimonials

Check out stories from our students and teachers and read about their recent achievements.

Do you want to share your story? Email it to us at or click here to tell your story in our google doc.

Shandelle Successfully Juggles School and Her Firewood Business!

About Shandelle:

Shandelle is a 15 year old VVS student. She is an inspiration to many students as she juggles schoolwork and the firewood business that she has been running with her mother since she was 7 or 8 years old!

Shandelle’s words of wisdom for other students looking to juggle school with their own businesses are to try to always stay ahead in their courses. She also encourages students to take that jump out of their comfort zone to pursue their dreams!

Interview with Shandelle:

1. Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Shandelle and I am 15 years old. 

I have always been taught that if you want something; you have to work for it. I am pretty stubborn, straightforward, independent, and most of the time, I say what’s on my mind. This is how I was taught to be growing up and even now. 

2. When did you start your firewood business? How did it start?

My mother started the firewood business for me when I was 7 or 8 (we had a wood burning fireplace so we needed the wood anyways), it started with just the local gas station and campground in Irricana. 

As I got older and knew how to run everything we moved out to Acme. When we got to the campground in Acme, there were a lot of customers that found our ad on Facebook, plus the locals that knew me and my mom as the, “firewood ladies”, helped spread the word. 

3. How do you balance your firewood business and school?

Balancing the firewood business and school used to be a lot harder, I used to have to go all the way out to Sundre 3-5 times over the weekend depending on how busy I’d get. Now, we get a semi load in from Sundre which saves me time on the weekend and on truck repair costs. 

The biggest thing that helps me balance everything with school is I try to get ahead and stay that way so I am not as worried about falling behind or not finishing my semesters.  

4. Are you happy with the course selection offered at VVS?

The courses that VVS offers are exactly what I’m looking for with work experience, green certificates, agriculture courses and all the main ones I take. I have no complaints. 

5. Do you have any tips or advice for other students out there who want to start a business?

Starting your own business isn’t easy and requires a lot of patience, work and time. I can say that what I do definitely requires some help but, I work my own hours and I work for myself which is a lovely thing to be able to say. 

If anyone has something they want to pursue, I’d say take the jump because you won’t get there by staying in your comfort zone. 

6.  Why would you recommend VVS to others?

VVS is a great school if you don’t like sitting in a classroom for 8ish hours a day, 5 days a week. You can finish school a month early if you want as there is lots of flexibility in hours for doing your school work and I personally find it a lot less stressful. Plus, the teachers are always there if you need them. 

Crystal McDonald Never Gave Up and Obtained Her High School Diploma!

About Crystal:

Crystal is a married mom of 3 (ages 18, 16, and 12) that works full time and has been out of high school for 20 years. She completed the GED and was issued the Alberta Equivalency Diploma when she moved away from home when she was 16 years old. She ended up with 87 credits and didn’t have the option to fill in the remaining. 

Her journey with Vista Virtual started when she was upgrading Social and Biology so that she could apply to Grant MacEwan in Edmonton. Once she completed those courses, she took Forensics 25 and Forensics 35 to fill all the requirements for her Alberta High School Diploma!

Interview with Crystal:

1.Why did you choose VVS for upgrading? How did you find out about us?

I found out about Vista Virtual School when I was researching University programs that I was interested in taking. I completed my core courses and GED in 2002, so of course I had to do some upgrading! When talking with an advisor at MacEwan University, it was then suggested to me that I should complete my upgrading through Vista Virtual School as they highly recommended VVS.

2. How did VVS help you with your educational goals?

Through the help of Vista Virtual School, I was able to successfully complete my upgrading (Social 30-2, Biology 30, Forensic Studies 25 & 35) within 5 months. I was also able to fill in the 13 credits that I was missing to be awarded my Alberta High School diploma. So, not only did I get to complete my upgrading, I was also able to get rid of the Alberta Equivalency Diploma and gain the Alberta High School diploma after 20 years!

3. Any advice for other students upgrading?

My advice is to find your reason and never give up! I can’t tell you how many times when things got hard or I started to doubt myself that I wanted to quit, and run in the other direction. It was tough and a lot of work, but I just kept pushing through. I remember working through Biology 30, I would tell my Husband, “if I don’t pass this test, I’m out, it’s obviously out of my capabilities”, or “it’s too hard and I don’t understand”. Well, I can tell you when that mark came in, I was always surprised, like how did that even happen?! You are more capable than you could ever imagine, so just keep going and you will continually amaze yourself!

4. How did you manage your time when upgrading? 

Managing my time while upgrading was a bit challenging at first, as I work full time and I am also a Mom to 3 children – ages 18, 16, and 12. I enrolled in Social 30-2 and Biology 30 at the same time, so each day I had an assignment or test to complete. I worked on school in the evening and weekends and made sure that I was ahead on deadlines (some days things were a bit hairier than others). My assignments usually worked out perfectly as I was pretty much rotating between the two courses without falling behind. I did sacrifice some free time, but I really enjoyed the challenge and learning something new each day!

5. Are you happy with the courses offered at VVS?

I’m extremely happy with the courses that are offered at Vista Virtual School. There’s a wide variety to choose from, but I especially enjoyed Forensic Studies!

6. Why would you recommend VVS to others? 

I would recommend VVS to other individuals as the teachers are supportive and approachable when you have any questions big or small, there’s a variety of courses to take, course materials are very detailed and thorough, the deadlines are easily managed, and the tuition is reasonably priced.

Tate McRae Climbs Pop Music Charts

Former VVS grade 12 student Tate McRae is reaching for the stars!

  • She was recently named as Maybelline New York’s latest brand ambassador.
  • Tate is gearing up to go on tour with Shawn Mendes next summer.
  • In November 2020 by being named to Forbes magazine’s 2021 Top 30 Under 30 list, making her the youngest musician on that list. Read more about her here.
Winner in Polar Expressions Publishing’s 2019/2020 National Student Poetry Contest

Congratulations to Sarah G. for being selected as a Third Prize Winner in Polar Expressions Publishing’s 2019/2020 National Student Poetry Contest!

Scholarship Success

Congratulations VVS grade 12 student Maria A. on winning the Kermet Archibald & Jacob Van den Brink Entrance Bursary!

Turning Adversity into Success—and Post-Secondary!

World Understanding and Travel

Finn, Nico and Milo are part of the Colebrook 5, exploring the world while learning through home education and Vista Virtual School. Check out the family’s blog at

World Knowledge and a Worldly Experience

Bike Travel
University Preparation

As a former student with Vista Virtual School (VVS), Sakariye Mohamed is using the skills he learned with VVS as he pursues a science degree at the University of Calgary. In addition to this, he’s part of Let’s Talk Science, a national program aimed at engaging students (children and youth) and educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Locally with the University of Calgary, Sakariye volunteers his time to help educate students across the region.

“Vista Virtual School prepared me for my post-secondary career (I’m in my second year right now),” says Sakariye. “I took all three sciences with the school and it gave me the opportunity to explore my options.

“I was able to talk with our academic counsellors and the other teachers, and they helped me learn what I might be interested in based on how I was doing and from the classes I liked and was interested in.”

And he uses those skills to help when he presents to students interested in learning more about science.

“Let’s Talk Science helps expose students to the things that they really don’t see.”

Working with DNA, he was able to present challenging concepts and hands-on experiments to current VVS students through the Let’s Talk Science program.

Prepared for University

“Going to university was a shift,” he says. “I was well-prepared to engage in independent learning, and the kind of lifestyle of what I needed to do to stay on top of things.

“Because it (learning through VVS) goes more into an independent study than in a conventional classroom, it is more about me and how I can better study. (For example, one of my classes has over 400 students right now and you are not really studying with 400 students.)”

How to Study

It is those study skills that have helped in his learning at the University of Calgary.

“Vista Virtual helped me, in that it gave me the sense of what works for me in terms of studying and what doesn’t. And that helped me transcend into what is this next chapter in my life.”