An unusual valedictorian

Published 8:31 pm Monday, July 20, 2015

North Suffolk teen Joshua Manning graduated as co-valedictorian from Orion High School, an online institution.

North Suffolk teen Joshua Manning graduated as co-valedictorian from Orion High School, an online institution.

Joshua Manning was recently named co-valedictorian of his high school, but it’s been years since he sat inside a classroom and cracked a textbook.

The North Suffolk teen began attending the online Orion High School in January 2012, when his family lived in Hawaii – his dad, James Manning, serves in the Navy.

“We had a problem with the public high school system,” Joshua Manning said. “We found Orion offered a real diploma.”

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On Friday, Manning was one of a dozen students to take part in a graduation ceremony at Midland, Texas. Another such ceremony will be held in Mississippi in a couple of weeks, said Goldie Manning, Joshua’s mom.

In all, Joshua Manning was one of 60 to graduate from the school this summer. But that isn’t such an accurate indication of Orion’s size.

The way the school works, there is no real distinction between grades nine through 12. High school students (there’s also a middle school and an elementary school) take two classes at once, which take two months of “super intensive” work, according to Manning.

“Each class is up to three hours each day,” he said.

Orion’s teachers are known as mentors, and everything — including textbooks — is provided online.

Manning said he would meet online with his mentors once a week and call them on the phone whenever he needed. Students and mentors also share screens.

Manning said his favorite subjects were languages, English and science. He plans to begin studying for a business degree, major in accounting, at Tidewater Community College, before transferring to a four-year college.

James Manning is retiring from the Navy at the end of next year, and the family doesn’t know where it will be after that.

While Joshua Manning’s aim is to become a CPA, he also wants to keep alive his interest in martial arts — he’s a black belt in kung fu and working toward the same in three other martial arts.

“I have done a couple of artistic ventures,” he said. “I was trying to write a book at one point. I’ve done some personal study in drawing. I like video games occasionally. I do like biking, and I did bike races in Hawaii.”

As well becoming an Eagle Scout in Hawaii, Manning was also a member of the National Honor Society.

Goldie Manning said Joshua’s sister, 10-year-old Danielle, will be starting middle school in the fall at John Yeates, after attending Northern Shores Elementary. But Orion is also a possibility for her.

Orion’s accreditations include the Texas Private Schools Accreditation Commission, and Advanced Education, the parent company of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement.