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Next for Isabella Henningsson-Brown is NCAA Division III women's hockey at the University of Massachusetts.

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON CONNECTIONS ACADEMY - Isabella Henningsson-Brown, 18, was named valedictorian of the Oregon Connections Academy's first-ever graduating class. She spoke at a commencement ceremony in Salem on Saturday, June 11.Beaverton's Isabella Henningsson-Brown was named valedictorian of the first graduating class at a new statewide online school.

Henningsson-Brown is one of almost 40 graduates in the Oregon Connections Academy's class of 2022 — the first graduating class at the school. The public charter school celebrated its first-ever commencement ceremony in Salem this month, over a year after the school first opened in February 2021.

The 18-year-old graduate spoke at the ceremony Saturday, June 11.

Not only did Henningsson-Brown excel in academics, but over the past year, she played for the Anaheim Lady Ducks' hockey team in California. She competed across North America during the program, and having a flexible, virtual school schedule helped her achieve her goals, she said.

In fact, other players on her hockey team recommended Oregon Connections Academy to Henningsson-Brown, and without it, she said, "I would never have been able to reach my hockey dreams."

The school allowed her the flexibility to build her own schedule, too.COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON CONNECTIONS ACADEMY - Isabella Henningsson-Brown earned valedictorian of Oregon Connections Academy's first-ever graduating class. The 18-year-old graduate is heading to University of Massachusetts in Boston next to play NCAA Division III women's hockey.

"I could not imagine being able to play elite hockey while attending in-person school every day," Henningsson-Brown said. "With traveling one to two times a month across the country, doing online school was the best option for me. I was able to complete lessons whenever they fit my schedule best, whether that be at 11 p.m. in a hotel room while at a tournament or at 2 a.m. on a red-eye flight back home."

Henningsson-Brown's father, Chris Brown, said the school was a good choice for his daughter.

"Isabella gained quite a bit of independence scheduling and managing her time with schoolwork and tasks assigned," he said.

Next year, Henningsson-Brown is headed to the University of Massachusetts in Boston on a $20,000 yearly merit scholarship. She will play NCAA Division III women's hockey for the university.

Of the rest of her graduating class, 41% plan to attend college or university, 20% will start working after graduation, some will head to vocational or trade school programs or take a gap year and the rest who aren't undecided will go into the military.

Chris Long, school leader at Oregon Connections Academy, said the school's graduates were able to tailor their learning experience to meet their needs.

"I'm confident that self-motivation and dedication will help them achieve great things as they move on to the next chapter in their lives," Long added.

Oregon Connections Academy, a tuition-free, full-time virtual public charter school, is open to students across Oregon. The school is offering free informational webinars to interested families and students, and enrollment is open for the next school year.

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