Non-Traditional Education for Non-Traditional Students

Nov 14, 2011, 07:00 ET from Ashworth College


Online schools offer athletes, entertainers path to continuing education

NORCROSS, Ga., Nov. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The champions' podium. A gold, silver or bronze medal placed around the neck. The American flag rises over the crowd while the Star Spangled Banner pours from the sound system. What athlete hasn't fantasized about being recognized for his or her achievements and the years of dedication and hard work? It's the dream of countless amateur athletes across the country.


With the hope of becoming the best in the world, world-class amateur athletes are devoted to their sport. Mostly in their late teens and early 20s, amateur athletes typically dedicate years of their life to training both their body and mind for more hours per week than most of us dedicate to a full-time job. So when do these athletes plan for life after sports and what happens when it's time to turn in the uniform or hang up the skates?

It's no secret that no matter how talented or driven an athlete is, while their peers are off attending college, securing jobs and building careers, those who compete at the highest levels sacrifice these career-building years in order to stay at the top of their game.

"While the athletes I encounter are focused on the task at hand (training and competing), they also are very in tune with how they envision their life after retiring from competition," said Dr. Nicole Detling Miller, a noted sport psychology consultant. "The ability to attend college online has become important to many of the athletes I work with. Online schools like Ashworth College give them the opportunity to prepare for future careers with an education that easily integrates with their training and competition schedules."  Ashworth College (, along with its subsidiary James Madison High School, is a leading online school that offers a wide range of diploma, certificate and degree programs.

For a select few, they'll use the experience as a stepping stone for turning pro. Some talented and charismatic athletes like a Michelle Kwan or Apolo Ohno have the opportunity to parlay their successes into endorsement deals. However, for many who have set aside their studies in exchange for the love of their sport, rigorous training and the promise of medaling or breaking a world record, they will look to starting or returning to college and embrace the prospect of starting a new career much later in life than their former high school classmates.

"With my training and competition schedule, sitting in a classroom was unrealistic," said Heather Richardson, a member of the U.S. Speedskating team. Richardson is pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration online at Ashworth College. "Because I'm studying while I'm training, I'm going to be able to move right into a career as a dental hygienist when I'm finished competing."

Online schools make it possible to stay in the game

Students from around the world have looked to distance learning institutions like Ashworth College and James Madison High School as a way to complete their education away from the classroom. Among them are a select few who, from a very early age, have engaged in full-time professions or amateur athletic activities. These are the young celebrities, including athletes, actors, models, musicians and other entertainers, who recognize the benefits education can have on their careers.

"Olympic athletes are intelligent, dynamic and high impact individuals yet most end their athletic careers with no college education or work experience," said Corby Fisher, a member of the U.S. National Ski Jumping Team and former Head Coach of the U.S. Olympic Ski Jumping Team. "To be a National Team and Olympic athlete demands year-round commitment and being on the road more than nine month a year. As a result, foregoing education is often the price that is paid."

Fisher, who now serves as Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Ludus Sports and leads Caliber Sports Enterprises, which represents and mentors Olympic and action sport athletes, appreciates what this opportunity means for today's amateur athletes. "To have an online college like Ashworth support our Olympic teams and help our athletes reach their academic potential is amazing. I wish I had been given the same opportunity when I was competing."

Demanding practice and rehearsal schedules and frequent travel have made traditional schooling challenging. But being absent from a classroom setting doesn't diminish their academic aspirations and dedication to earning a diploma or degree from a respected, accredited institution.

"Ashworth is a convenient option for athletes and entertainers who need flexible education that fits within their demanding schedules," said Dr. Leslie Gargiulo, Vice President of Education for Ashworth College. "Students can study at their own pace, completing a semester course in as little as four weeks or as many as 18 weeks. Online education offers a convenient way for students to catch up on missed credits, take a subject not offered at their traditional school, solve a scheduling conflict, try a different method of learning, or supplement their learning activities if they are homeschooled or temporarily home bound."

Below is a sampling of notable students who've looked to Ashworth College for a quality educational alternative — some earning their diplomas, others taking courses — at a distance.

U.S. Speedskating Team

To date, 16 category 1 members of the U.S. Speedskating Team have enrolled with Ashworth College and James Madison High School, including Petra Acker, Ryan Bedford, Simon Cho, Alyson Dudek, Morgan Izykowski, Brian Kramer, Trevor Marsicano, Natanya Mintz, Patrick Meek, Kendall Pumpfrey, Katherine Reutter, Heather Richardson, Jilleanne Rookard, Emily Scott, Jessica Smith, Nathan Tonkinson, Kyle Uyehara and Joshua Wood. These student-athletes spend a majority of the year training for various U.S. and international competitions and ultimately a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. With 75 Winter Olympic Medals, U.S. Speedskating is the most successful winter sports team. Ashworth students who earned 2010 Winter Olympic medals are Cho, Dudek, Marsicano, and Reutter.

Didiayer Snyder

Australian-born Didiayer Snyder, formerly a runway model for designers Badgley Mischka and Roberto Cavelli and a team designer on the Emmy Award-winning Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a two-time Ashworth College graduate having received diplomas in both Ashworth's carpentry and interior decorating programs.

Lafabian Williams

Lafabian Williams, aka Lafo, is a member of American rap group D4L, and is currently enrolled at James Madison High School. The group is best known for their hit song "Laffy Taffy."

Alicen Holden

Alicen Holden received her diploma from James Madison High School, a division of Ashworth College, in 2008. Holden is known for her country music career, opening concerts for country music legends such as Kenny Rogers, Diamond Rio, Mark Chesnutt, Merle Haggard and others. To date she has charted two top 40 songs, along with having a top 100 CD. She made a seamless transition to films, most notably appearing in The Dukes of Hazzard.

Fantasia Barrino

Before she became the 2004 winner of American Idol and go on to have a successful music and acting career, Fantasia Barrino was once a James Madison High School student.

Luis Bruno and Roberto Sapia

Luis Bruno and Roberto Sapia are also James Madison graduates. Currently playing for Southeastern Illinois College, the young athletes are among several high school students who were enrolled through a partnership with Puerto Rico-based Next Level America Academy (NLAA). NLAA's mission is to prepare area student-athletes to attend college the United States. 

About Ashworth College and James Madison High School

Ashworth College, a leading online school, has built a tradition of excellence spanning 25 years, offering students worldwide more than 115 online college degrees, online certificate programs and online high school diploma options that are affordable and fit the busy schedules of working adults. Ashworth also offers military education online as well as specialized programs for corporate partners and homeschoolers.

Headquartered in Norcross, GA, Ashworth is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). The Accrediting Commission of the DETC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency. James Madison High School is further accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI). For more information, visit

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Dr. Leslie Gargiulo, Ph.D.

SOURCE Ashworth College