PA Cyber
Two students graduating from PA Cyber

Lifelong Friends at PA Cyber: A Q&A with Elia and Zayn

June 8, 2023

Friendship is a remarkable bond that can form under various circumstances, often rooted in shared experiences and genuine connections. In this Q&A article, we delve into the enduring friendship between Elia Mikhail and Zayn Farooq. They met in first grade at their local district school, and they later enrolled in PA Cyber; Zayn came aboard in sixth grade and Elia in ninth grade. They graduated from PA Cyber together in June 2022, and they recently finished their first year of college. Both received full scholarships—Elia with Princeton University and Zayn with Robert Morris University. Read on for their insights on friendship, experiences with PA Cyber, and advice for future high school graduates.

2022 graduates Zayn Farooq (left) and Elia Mikhail (right)

How did you become friends?

Elia: We attended the same elementary school and became close. We were both in the gifted program and children of immigrants, so we had enough commonalities between us to start a close friendship rather quickly.

Zayn: We became friends when we met on the first day of first grade. Our shoes were the same color, and we were fascinated by this.

How have you stayed friends?

Elia: We lived quite close to each other and always saw each other around. We have had our lulls in friendship but being around each other so much has produced a friendship that is quite difficult to break.

Zayn: We've stayed friends by simply communicating. Even when we graduated from elementary school and went our separate ways, we always made time to meet each other. With the two of us spending so much time together, our families grew close as well. Visiting Elia's house is now a family event!

What do you like about your friend?

Elia: I would say I most admire his considerateness, be it from political issues to simply spending time with his younger siblings. He recognizes his connectedness with the world and embraces it.

Zayn: Elia is an awesome, supportive friend who's always there when you need him (especially when you need a good laugh). He's really smart, and he's not afraid to shoot for the stars.

Why did you and your family choose PA Cyber?

Elia: My family and I had decided that switching to an online education would be the best move I could make to improve my education, one where I could take a wide variety of coursework. Fortunately, Zayn had been in PA Cyber for three years prior, and he shared with us his experiences.

Zayn: I enrolled in PA Cyber after I graduated from elementary school. There weren't any other viable middle school options in my area, and PA Cyber offered a quality education from the comfort of my home. I tried it for a year and loved it.

How did PA Cyber help you prepare for college?

Elia: PA Cyber fostered in me a degree of educational independence rarely seen in brick-and-mortar schooling, something that has proven vital to my success in college. In that independence, a wide variety of support was within close reach, particularly from my advisors. My academic advisor, Ellen Quinn, gave me crucial advice and encouraged me through high school. PA Cyber's College in High School program provided me with an abundance of advanced coursework dedicated to easing the transition to college, further aiding me in my prospects. And, of course, the multitude of clubs offered by PA Cyber were of great benefit.

Zayn: PA Cyber prepared me for college by giving me a great academic advisor and an amazing college counselor. I could find any answers I needed through them, and they were invaluable throughout the application process. PA Cyber's flexibility allowed me to focus on college applications during the beginning of my senior year and then to shift my focus back to school and classes during the third and fourth quarters. I was accepted to seven institutions and was able to win a full ride!

Do you have any advice for PA Cyber students who want to get into their ideal college?

Elia: Take hard classes and join extracurriculars that you truly have passion for! As an aside, do not fret over how competitive a certain college may be—you always have a shot!

Zayn: Make sure you apply to a wide variety of colleges both in and out of your area. Work hard in your classes, but always make sure to relax and have fun. After all, you only have four years of high school!

What clubs and groups did you participate in while at PA Cyber?

Elia: I was President of Model United Nations Club and Vice President of Student Council and Debate Club. I was also involved in the National Honor Society, Science Club, Bible Club, IMPACT tutoring, and History Club. Outside of PA Cyber, I was heavily involved with the youth organization of my church, the Society of Orthodox Youth Organizations, with leadership roles at local, diocesan, and archdiocesan levels.

Zayn: I was President of Debate Club. I participated in Digital Fabrication, Student Council, National Honor Society, Model United Nations Club, Newspaper Club, and was a tutor with IMPACT. Outside of PA Cyber, I played varsity soccer. It was a pleasure to take part in so many clubs, and I made a lot of close friends and learned so much! These activities, and the teachers who supervised them, had a profound influence on me.

What are your future plans?

Elia: My plans are to eventually be an entrepreneur in the environmental engineering realm. I am planning on majoring in Civil and Environmental Engineering, focusing on the Environmental Engineering track. I also hope to attain a certificate (Princeton's name for a minor) in Finance.

Zayn: I'm majoring in Political Science, and I hope to earn my master's after graduation. I plan to work hard and pursue my dreams while also enjoying my college years!

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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 instruction 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.