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PA Cyber early grad vaults onto PSU gymnastics team

Jan 30, 2019

If it wasn't for PA Cyber, it would have been impossible for Donna Howell to tackle her rigorous school work and gymnastics schedule. The family lives in a small, rural town near the New York border, about an hour north of Scranton.

"Basically, where we live, there are no gyms, so we have to travel almost an hour to get anywhere," said Maureen Howell of New Milford. "There was no way if she stayed in a brick-and-mortar school, that she could have trained and basically followed her dream."

Donna graduated early from PA Cyber in 2018 and is now a student at Penn State University's Main Campus in State College, about a three-hour drive from her hometown.

"I have always wanted to be a part of Penn State Gymnastics since I was very young," Donna Howell said.

As luck would have it, she attended a high-performance gymnastics camp for higher level gymnasts and caught the attention of PSU with her strong performance.

"At that point, their scholarships were all spoken for, but they wanted her," Maureen Howell said. "They asked her to come on as a walk on."

Donna has a spot on the team and is contributing on the vault line as a freshman. She excels as a vaulter but is classified through Penn State as all-around, enabling her to compete in any category.

At 4 years old, Donna began taking gymnastics and fell in love with the sport. By third grade, Victor and Maureen Howell had enrolled their daughter into PA Cyber, where she excelled in her classes while competing for the United Sports Academy in Dunmore.

"There were days when she had to be at the gym in Dunmore by 3 p.m. Well, a lot of schools aren't even done by then, no less to travel 45 minutes to get to the gym. I honestly don't think she could have trained the way she needed to if she had that stringent of a schedule. PA Cyber always worked with her to give her morning classes so we could adjust to travel time and schedules."

Before joining the Penn State team, Donna competed in her final Junior Olympic Regionals, Level 10, last April in Maryland. She suffered a substantial fall on beam and, after the injury, her coach watered down her floor routine to prevent any chance of further injury knowing she was already committed to Penn State and heading there for the summer session.

Donna started taking college courses over the summer, aiming to get a couple of classes under her belt to lighten her course load during competition. She is studying communications and has an interest in kinesiology, the study of body movement.

"She loves it. She absolutely loves it down there," Maureen Howell said. "She loves the team. She's doing great being as young as she is. I'm very, very proud of her."

Donna Howell's profile is part of an ongoing series featuring PA Cyber alumni.

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.