TTU K-12 student stars in Christmas Story sequel.
For a child actor having only been in the business a few years, River Drosche has had opportunities even seasoned actors may be jealous of, including a major role in a sequel to a beloved holiday classic movie.
River, who turned 11 in June, plays Mark, the son of now grown-up Ralphie from the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story,” in “A Christmas Story Christmas,” premiering on HBO Max Nov. 17.
The fifth grader started with TTU K-12 in January 2020. River's mother, Lawana, said River and his dad Jason spent a few months in Los Angeles in 2019. It was the beginning of his third-grade year, and it quickly became apparent he needed new options for his education.
“Although our local school district worked with us to keep him enrolled there, we quickly realized how difficult that was and had to begin searching for remote learning options that would allow him to pursue his interest in acting,” she said. “It was our local district that actually recommended TTU K-12 as an option.”
River splits his time between Los Angeles and his permanent home in Texas. He has had various co-star and guest-star roles since beginning his acting journey. In January 2021 he booked a recurring guest star role in the TBS series “Miracle Workers,” opposite Steve Buscemi and Daniel Radcliff. In January of this year, he booked his first studio film, that would take him on location to Bulgaria.
“He and his dad departed for Bulgaria less than two weeks after his initial audition and were there until the film wrapped in late April,” Lawana said. “It was truly the experience of a lifetime and exciting for him to be in the sequel to a classic holiday film.”
Both River and his parents agree that the biggest benefit of schooling through TTU K-12 is its flexibility and portability.
“First of all, you can go anywhere around the world and still be able to do it as long as you have Wi-Fi to turn your work in,” River explained. “Another benefit is it allows you six months to finish a class, which is a really long time compared to a regular public school that allows you three or four months. Another thing is you can get up whenever you want and get your things done, I really love that part!”
Jason recalled the several months he and River were out of the country for the shooting of “A Christmas Story Christmas.”
“For all practical purposes, the shift of traveling to Bulgaria instead of Los Angeles wasn't that much different with respect to the educational aspect,” Jason said. “We have always purchased the hard copy books for his classes but taking those wasn't really an option for that international trip. It was a small adjustment, but the fact that everything was available electronically exactly like he had been using hardcopy was very nice.”
When he's not involved in an acting project, River is just a normal kid with a family, a dog and his favorite activities. Kennisyn, his sister, is 15 and a singer. His dog is a mini Goldendoodle named Gypsy.
“I like to pogo stick and I like board games, especially Monopoly, although it does take a while, but I still love it. I also like hiking, drawing and karate,” River said. “When I'm in California, there is a dojo near our house, so I go to karate four days a week. I've made a lot of friends there. I also like to swim. When I'm at my house in Texas, if it's scorching hot when I'm done with school, I can just jump in the pool and have a great time with my sister.”
Jason and Lawana kept coming back to the flexibility TTU K-12 provides for River, especially splitting time between two homes.
“If he is filming, there are very strict guidelines with respect to the hours spent on schoolwork while on set each day,” Lawana said. “That can be challenging, and it does often mean that to make sure he is fully engaged with the course material, he may have to extend that time beyond hours on set. If he isn't filming, there have been times where he has three or four auditions during the week, and those times can make it difficult to get in a lot of schoolwork. River isn't a fan of early mornings. He prefers to begin his schoolwork a little later in the mornings, and even some in the evenings. As a parent, you still must be disciplined and provide structure.”
“In a public school I think you have a lot more distractions, like with friends and going to recess,” River said. “With TTU K-12 you can focus on your work and go through all of it until you understand it.”
Another favorite aspect River's family has found in Texas Tech Elementary School is the way it is preparing him for the future.
“I think River has seen that there has to be a balance with flexibility versus discipline, and we feel that will serve him well in life, whatever path he chooses,” Jason said. “He has been part of the program long enough that he knows what he has to get done. He does share that he misses friends in public school, but he also has seen the benefit of spending extra time really learning something that he may be having a hard time grasping at first.”
For the future, River says he may certainly continue to pursue acting, but he also may attend college in a somewhat familiar place.
“Besides acting, I really don't know. I do plan on going to college, probably Texas Tech,” he grinned. “I mean I'm already here, why not do it!”
With positive experiences all around, the Drosche family unanimously recommends the TTU K-12 program to other parents and families considering non-traditional schooling.
“I would say it's a really good program, I just have to be honest,” River said. “It can help you to really understand a topic so that you don't fail a test. It's kind of fun too because there are science experiments you can do. I recommend it and have been happy!”
Jason says if a family is looking for flexibility, TTU-K12 is ideal, but as a parent, be willing to work with your child for them to get the absolute most out of their education.
“TTU K-12, at least for grades 3-6, thus far does require parental guidance,” Jason said. “While the curriculum is provided, it isn't just a program that you leave your child to do on their own. As with anything, the parental support is important, and the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”