Recent PA Distance graduate, Dakota Burik, was honored with the Foundation Award at this past weekend’s ceremony for being enrolled since kindergarten. Along with his fellow classmates, Adam Patelunas and Josh McDiffitt, Dakota was recognized for being a student at PA Distance for his entire K-12 education - a total of 13 years. If you ask a PA Distance teacher, counselor, or even student, everyone would say that they know Dakota.
“All the teachers were super nice about everything and they always checked up on me to make sure I was doing well. If I was struggling in a class they always helped me,” he explained.
Now that Dakota is officially a high school graduate, he can set his sights on his future working with computers. Due to his continuity interest, Dakota had taken advantage of the new PA Distance computer science program offerings.
“I don't know specifically what I want to do yet, all I know is I want to do something with computers,” he explained. “I love computers and I have all my life. I've built multiple computers for myself and friends, so definitely something in that field.”
“I like to work on the insides of computers,” he explained. “I've gone to PItt College and helped them out with their computers.”
Dakota is also actively involved in martial arts and is a 2nd-degree black belt in Taekwondo. He began practicing at 8-years-old and is coming up on his 10 year anniversary this August. He also helps teach classes to pass on his expertise and experience to others.
Dakota looked back on his time at PA Distance and all of the fun extracurricular opportunities he got the chance to do. For example, he remembers going to several in-person field trips to Penguins hockey games, to tour the Herr's Potato Chip Factory, ride roller coasters at Kennywood, and to learn about science hands-on at the Carnegie Science Center.
“I love going on field trips!” he said. “I got to meet all my teachers and classmates there.”
Dakota also spends a lot of his free time, and more so now post-graduation, as a cook at Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort and Conference Center in his hometown of Blairsville, PA.
“I was a dishwasher and after 6 months of working there I got promoted,” he said. “I plan to work there until I start college.”
Now that his career at PA Distance has come to a close, he notes that he will miss his teachers and classmates.
“PA Distance has been a part of my whole life,” he said. “I've been there since Kindergarten. The teachers, fun times, the classes, the changes that have been made over time that I have watched evolve and grow, just like how this school watched me evolve and grow.”
(Dakota over the years; picture on left is from 2011 and picture on right is from 2021)
“The teachers made my stay at PA Distance awesome. It was an easy choice to stay here,” he added. “They have always been super fun and caring about their students, they seem to always go the extra mile to help you out.”