Student Features

Future Physical Therapy Major Received Lori Conkle Memorial Scholarship

Aug 29, 2022

In early June, Lizzie Velazquez received a call with good news—she was chosen to receive the Lori Conkle Memorial Scholarship. She celebrated with her mother and then promptly called her grandmother. The $1,000 scholarship will help pay for textbooks as she attends Bloomsburg University for a degree in pre-physical therapy. 

The executive board of PA Cyber’s Special Education Association created the scholarship for a 2022 graduate with an IEP who planned to attend college or trade school. School employees named it the Lori Conkle Memorial Scholarship to commemorate PA Cyber’s special education teacher who passed away suddenly in December 2021. 

Lizzie, a Reading-area resident, applied for the scholarship after her IEP writer Ashlee Woznicki encouraged her to apply. “Lizzie is a very hard-working young lady who strived to succeed to the best of her ability,” said Ashlee. “She stayed determined, focused, and motivated throughout her high school career. I’m so proud of her and wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.”

Lizzie began her freshman year at Bloomsburg University this fall. She plans to major in pre-physical therapy and minor in dance. She has her sights set on attending Johns Hopkins University for graduate school. She wants to work in pediatric physical therapy, having been inspired by therapists who helped her through dance injuries and concussions caused by sports.

“I don’t think I’d be the same without them, so I want to help kids like my PTs helped me,” she said. 

Lizzie celebrating her graduation from PA Cyber with her family.

A Better Choice

Lizzie enrolled at PA Cyber in ninth grade after having struggled at her district’s middle school. She experienced migraines in sixth grade, and then in eighth grade she endured five concussions in one year while playing varsity lacrosse. “I almost failed eighth grade because I couldn’t show up to class,” she said. “It was so bad, I needed to go to physical therapy to learn how to read again.” 

She had been wanting to try cyber school, and after researching options she discovered PA Cyber. “Me and my mom decided it would be a better choice for me,” she said. “I knew it was where I wanted to go.”

“I’ve always said that cyber school isn’t for everyone. It definitely depends on the type of person you are. Cyber school is an amazing choice. You really need to put in the work because it’s all on you,” Lizzie said. 

When Lizzie wasn’t completing her online courses through PA Cyber, she attended Berks Career and Technology Center for painting and decorating where she met some of her best friends. She also spent 15 years with her local dance studio where she fell in love with contemporary dance and then later ballet. She is excited to continue dance classes at Bloomsburg University.

Remembering a Teacher, Colleague, and Friend

Lori Conkle had worked for PA Cyber as a special education teacher for 13 years. Teresa Martin, a special education teacher at PA Cyber and president of the Special Education Association, had been friends with Lori since they attended kindergarten together. Teresa described Lori as someone who would tell it like it is, without sugarcoating. Someone who volunteered tremendous hours in her community of Hookstown. Someone who was crazy about minions and M&Ms. Someone who worked with a student either early in the morning or late in the evening. “Whenever they needed her, she was available,” Teresa said. “You could rely on her for anything.” 

Director of Special Education Mark Iannini described her in an email to his staff soon after she passed: “For those who knew Lori, we can quickly associate her with developing long lasting relationships with her students and families, a joy to be around, a fun person to interact with, and one who was not shy about speaking her mind.”

Teresa said the board of PA Cyber’s Special Education Association chose to give a scholarship to a special education student because they knew Lori would have wanted it that way. Lori fought hard for her special education students, and she helped take care of her older brother Rich who has multiple disabilities.

“I know it’s hard to get a scholarship, even as a regular education student,” Teresa said, “but it’s a lot harder for a special education student.”

Before the scholarship was formed, teachers and staff pooled their money to pay for food for Lori’s memorial service, but Lori’s mother said the food was already taken care of. That’s when the Association decided to create a scholarship with the funds they had raised. At the memorial service last April, which was widely attended by the Hookstown community, Teresa spoke in tribute to Lori and mentioned the scholarship. “The community members just started coming up to me and handing me money,” said Teresa. The balance soon rose from $600 to $1,000. 

With support from the Association, the Conkle family, community members, and friends, the scholarship will continue next year. 

“Lori was a very hard worker, and we wanted to honor her,” Teresa said. “Whatever she could do to help someone, she’d do it. She was an amazing person. This was something we wanted to do to keep her memory alive. It did a great job with that.”

Lori's favorite quote:

“Sometimes you got to specifically go out of your way to get into trouble. It's called fun.” -Robin Williams

First day of school of the 2021-2022 academic year.

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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.