April 16, 2021

CalPac Student, Tennis Star Maxi Duncan Earns Scholarship to Harvard University

From incoming eighth-grader to outgoing high school senior, around the world, through a pandemic, and soon, across the country, Maxi Duncan’s rise to tennis stardom is nothing short of phenomenal. Headed to Harvard University in fall 2021 on a full athletic scholarship, the Irvine, California native is the first-ever Ivy League-accepted student from CalPac and a shining example of a guided online learning success story. Read how CalPac’s free, flexible online charter school allowed Maxi to ignite her passion and reach the pinnacle of success for a high school student athlete.

In the Classroom

While tennis may be Maxi’s passion and future profession, education is an equal part of the equation. Her father, Gerald, enrolled her in CalPac when she was 14 years old to ensure a balance between sport and studies. CalPac’s NCAA-approved courses put Maxi on a clear path to college, first and foremost as a student. Meanwhile, the guided online learning model proved to be a perfect fit as she not only made and stayed on the honor roll, but also notched a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

“My dad discovered CalPac while searching for a different kind of online schooling experience,” Maxi said. “One where I can play tennis internationally from a young age while still being able to complete my schoolwork and communicate with teachers no matter what schedule I’m on or what time zone I’m in.”

On the Court

In rhythm with her impressive performance in school, Maxi continued to blossom into a highly touted tennis star. In 2020, she won three consecutive tournaments—two college and one pro—totaling 16 consecutive matches, the longest streak by a junior tennis player that year. Despite the widely documented mental and emotional impacts of the pandemic on students learning remotely, Maxi’s discipline, focus, and work ethic excelled.

“The pandemic has been really tragic in so many ways,” Maxi said. “I’m fortunate that I was able to use quarantine as an opportunity to work on fitness, homework, and future plans. When it came time to play in tournaments, I felt surprisingly relaxed.”

Maxi became a five-star, top ten recruit nationally, attracting the likes of prestigious universities including USC, UCLA, Pepperdine, Purdue, Georgia Tech, Columbia, Brown, and her ultimate choice, Harvard.

Applying to College

Maxi and Gerald both credited the staff at CalPac for being essential in the college application process.

“The counselors made sure I knew all of the requirements and deadlines,” Maxi said. “The teachers read over my essays and wrote recommendation letters. The advisors sent my transcripts and other official information to each university. All of their kindness and mentorship will stick with me forever.”

Gerald added, “They always encouraged her to be the best version of herself, maintaining the right combination of exceptions for her schedule and accountability for her schoolwork. We don’t feel we could have gotten these results—in tennis, in school, and now pursuing both at Harvard—at any other high school.”

On to the Ivy League

Gerald, a former professional basketball player and NBA agent, has been Maxi’s tennis coach through her young career, while also moderating her online learning at home and on the road.

“He’s always there for me, literally and figuratively,” Maxi said. “I love having him as my coach. It’s one of my favorite parts about tennis. And with the online learning at CalPac, we get to spend even more time together.”

From her father, Maxi has learned and lived by the philosophy of pushing herself to the brink to achieve excellence. “At times, I have a tendency to be mundane with my goals,” she said. “He always helps me see that I can dream big and still be realistic.”

Like any teen-to-college story, it will be bittersweet for Gerald to see Maxi off to Harvard. But he knows, she knows, and we know that a bright future is ahead for one of the NCAA’s most heralded young athletes. 

Soon enough, Maxi will look to join the Women’s Tennis Association Tour. However, there’s more work to be done first. Maxi has her sights set on continuing her CalPac ways at Harvard, showing that “shoot for the moon” spirit in her ambition of leading the Crimson to a national championship while simultaneously exploring academic interests in law and publishing.

Maxi smiles with excitement when thinking about the busy city of Boston, the historic campus at Harvard, the novelty of winter clothes, and the many ways her future career could unfold. Simultaneously, Gerald beams with pride and joy.

“We believe you can be great in your sport and in school,” Gerald said. “CalPac helped make that possible.”