CORNELIUS – Christian Eckes just turned 17 years old, but he’s been wheeling race cars since he was 9. The time constraints and travel schedule of running racing tours is a challenge for any driver in the sport but a unique balancing act for a grade school student trying to compete during the school year.
Eckes tried to attend public school and balance his budding racing career, but at age 13 he moved to Legend cars, 5/8-scale fiberglass full-fendered versions of NASCAR modifieds, and competed in more than 60 races.
“I had to miss class,” Eckes said.
He turned to a digital solution for high school with George Washington University Online High School (GWUOHS), which offers classes on a flexible schedule.
“It’s been a huge benefit to me,” Eckes said, who now races Super Late Model cars and Late Model Stock cars.
His normal day is waking up and logging into class, where he can watch live classroom sessions with teachers who use smart boards and other technology to communicate digitally. He also watches tutorials and completes assignments with supervision. At his speed, he estimates it takes him a little more than three hours a day to complete his daily lessons, freeing up a great deal more time than the normal six-hour public school day.
“It’s normal school – it’s just more flexible,” Eckes said.
For example, Eckes had to travel from his home in Cornelius to Pensacola, Fla., right after Thanksgiving and stay there for the Snowball Derby week through the first week of December. While he was preparing for the race, he was still able to sign into his GWUOHS classes and continue his education. That also enables him to spend time in race shops during the day and fulfill other driver obligations like sponsorship meetings.
GWUOHS is accredited and is a National Honor Society chapter, and a diploma from GWUOHS is accepted at colleges and universities. But the convenience comes at a cost.
Full-time high school classes at GWUOHS cost $12,000 a year, which includes a personalized academic plan, college preparation help and access to all textbooks and study materials required. Scholarships are available to students who excel in the eighth grade with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and for those with financial need.
For student athletes, pursuing an education while staying competitive is priceless.
“It’s been incredible for me and provided me with the foundation to have a backup plan,” Eckes said.
He was able to compete at a high level in 2016, winning races, one in Nashville, Tenn.; one in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and the prestigious Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Fla., as well as several NASCAR K&N series races. He prepared, competed and won all while taking sophomore classes at GWUOHS.
He’s currently looking forward to build off of his 2017 season, which resulted in a partnership with Venturini Motorsports to run 15 Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) races in 2018.
The Toyota Development driver is looking forward to finishing his high school education and is interested in applying to college.
But don’t expect to see the young driver walk across a graduation stage anywhere in June, when GWUOHS classes end.
“I’m at a race on graduation day, so I’ll miss it,” Eckes said.
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.