New program offers different path to high school diploma

Teacher Brent Jarosz during a recent class at the Graduation Pathways program

There are many potential reasons why students drop out of high school, even when they’re just a few courses away from walking across that stage to receive their diploma.

Some need to work full time to help support their family. Some experience traumatic events that throw their lives into chaos. One recent student moved between cities and states so much in one year that she collected six W-2 forms.

For 19-year-old Linh, it was a series of setbacks that led her to drop out of Lincoln North Star High School last year.

“Just a lot of personal issues,” she said.

There currently are close to 1,000 young men and women under the age of 21 living in Lincoln who dropped out of school at some point and have not re-enrolled. Graduation Pathways, a pilot program through Lincoln Public Schools, provides some of these former students an alternate way of attending school again and earning their diploma.

“Our goal is to support academic success by providing a different delivery setting - one with flexible schedules for students,” said Chris Schefdore, LPS Youth Development Team navigator. “The end result would be that students will become re-engaged in their education.”

Graduation Pathways offers night classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 6-8 p.m., at the Bryan Community Focus Program building near 48th and O streets. Students can take Oral Communication, the Take Charge financial literacy course, a Work Experience course and various eLearning options. To be eligible for the program, students must have earned at least 200 of the 245 credits required to graduate from LPS. Roughly 100 of the 1,000 students in Lincoln who have dropped out are currently eligible.

The program began with the 2018-19 school year and its enrollment has steadily increased from five students to its current level of more than 30. The program produced its first LPS high school graduate in November.

“As we see the number of student participants increase, we know that the program is addressing a need. We’re happy to support students who understand the importance of completing their high school degree,” said LPS Director of Federal Programs Linda Hix. “These students will be ready for college and career opportunities and that will benefit our community.”

Graduation Pathways has been a savior for students such as Linh, who started in January. She usually comes to class straight from her full-time job at a nail salon.

“I think it’s much easier for me. I can work at my own pace and it’s not too many classes too many days of the week,” she said. “That works around my work schedule. It’s perfect for people who have harder work schedules that aren’t so flexible.”

Linh needs four courses to graduate. She’ll take three of those through Graduation Pathways and her final course during summer school. After that, she’ll continue to work full time and possibly attend Southeast Community College to earn an associate’s degree.

No matter what she does, she’ll have options.

“I’ll be a high school graduate and that means a lot.”

Published: March 5, 2019, Updated: March 5, 2019

"I'll be a high school graduate and that means a lot."

Linh, a student in the LPS Graduation Pathways program. She dropped out of school last year but is back on track to graduate this summer.