Quebec Virtual Academy attracts elite athletes

Montreal - Friday, June 9, 2023

While his cohorts in Montreal were tramping to class through snow, Gianluca Minicozzi was going to hockey practice in shorts and sandals while completing his Secondary V education through the Quebec Virtual Academy (QVA).

The English Montreal School Board is one of nine English-language boards across Quebec who participate in QVA to offer virtual learning experiences for students with medical needs, those who live in rural areas and don’t have access to some courses and for elite athletes whose training schedules make in difficult to attend regular classes.

In Minicozzi’s case, he attended virtual classes while playing for the Bakersfield Roughnecks in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The Roughnecks play in the USPHL Premier League which serves as a stepping stone to U.S. college hockey.

 “My goal is to play NCAA hockey and it was important for me to be in a situation where I could progress athletically and academically” said Minicozzi. ”I was a 16-year-old playing against players who were 20, 21 and that was a challenge.”

Minicozzi, who is a defence-first centre, says, “My goal is to make sure the guy playing against me doesn’t score”  learned about the year-old QVA program after he was offered a spot with the Niagara Renegades, a Tier Two junior team in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. He played the first half of the season with Niagara and his adviser arranged for him to head west.

“It was important to continue my education and QVA made it easy,” said Minicozzi,. “The three-hour time difference was a challenge, but my teachers were able to tape classes for me and they were available to answer questions. They also gave me extensions when I needed them.”

Minicozzi’s lone regret is that QVA doesn't offer a Grade 12 option and he is currently looking for a similar virtual program based in another province.

Swimming Towards Success

Erika Gordon is also looking forward to competing at the NCAA level. 

The 14-year-old swimmer in completing her Secondary 3 studies through QVA while training as part of the Pointe Claire Aquatic Club’s elite sports étude program.

Gordon, who is a backstroker, took up gymnastics when she was five but switched to swimming in 2020. She trains 24 hours a week, mostly in the pool but she also does dryland exercises that work on cardiovascular and strength development. Three times a week she’s in the pool by 5:30 a.m. for practice before school, and then returns to the pool for after school.

“Joining Quebec Virtual Academy has helped me so much this year to balance my training and school schedule,” said Gordon. “When I am away at training camps or meets I am able to attend classes when I can. Teachers post all the material on Google Classroom so I am able to keep up. They have all been supportive in ensuring I have what I need to be successful.” 

QVA will return for the 2023-2024 academic year.  Students from across the province with English eligibility, and who meet the criteria established in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, are now able to apply for September admission for Kindergarten to Secondary V. The opening of a grade level is conditional to having a sufficient number of students registered. 

Criteria includes those in a Sport-études program, or an elite athlete, whose academic needs cannot be met in their local school, due to a lack of accessibility to specific courses (e.g. scientific math, chemistry, physics) or distance and scheduling conflicts with the sports organizations and school.

Parents can complete the application process via the link at

About the English Montreal School Board

With a youth and adult sector population of more than 35,000 students, the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) is the largest English public school board in Quebec. Established on July 1, 1998, when the province created new boards along linguistic lines, the EMSB network consists of 73 schools and centres. For more details, visit the EMSB website at

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