LPS senior finds direction through Graduation Pathways program

Lincoln Public Schools student Clara discovered which road she wanted to take in life through her involvement with the Graduation Pathways program.
Clara relied on the program’s teachers and staff members to help her reach her high school academic ambitions. She completed all of her graduation requirements in December 2023 and walked across the stage with her classmates in late May. She will enter college this fall and plans to become a pharmacy technician.

Clara said Graduation Pathways made a major difference in her life. She was unhappy at her home high school, but she found a renewed sense of purpose and direction once she enrolled full-time in the program.

“The teachers had more time to individually work on stuff with students,” Clara said. “Every day, from each of my teachers, I got asked, ‘How are you doing, Clara? How is work going in all of your other classes?’ It was more relaxed and I had fun. I didn’t feel as stressed, and I wanted to learn.”

Graduation Pathways offers classes for students who have experienced challenges at their home high schools. They must be between the ages of 17-21 and must have successfully completed 170 or more high school credits. They must be eligible for traditional school placement to apply for admission. 

Graduation Pathways Program Supervisor Chris Schefdore said she has seen many people experience similar positive endings to their LPS stories. She said helping students like Clara reach the finish line of high school is the goal for everyone who works at Graduation Pathways.
“The staff here have a passion,” Schefdore said. “We really want to help students succeed, not just academically, but holistically.”

Schefdore said the program has grown significantly since classes began during the 2018-19 school year. In the first year only night courses were available for a handful of enrollees. Now, classes are available during both the school day and evening hours to help 152 students complete the credits they need to graduate. The program currently has a teacher for every core academic discipline, and a school counselor and secretary are available to help students remain on successful routes.
Clara first came to Graduation Pathways while dual-enrolling with her home high school. She chose to attend the program full-time during the spring semester of her senior year. The scholar finished all of her coursework the following semester. She said she felt a sense of empowerment and confidence after spending time in the program.
“When you’re walking in here, you’re in charge of your own stuff,” Clara said. “You’re your own adult here.”

Schefdore said the program works with each student to create the best options for graduation. All in-person classes take place at The Career Academy building on Southeast Community College’s campus, and Graduation Pathways offers online courses to accommodate a variety of student schedules. All students in both online and in-person classes take tests at TCA to allow staff to monitor their progress.
“We have both in-person and online classes, so we have a mix of classes to help fit what will help the student,” Schefdore said. “Flexibility is very important for our students.”
Clara said those options are valuable for everyone who attends the program. She said each person has full ownership of their academic destinies at Graduation Pathways.
“I think it depends on the student’s drive,” Clara said. “It depends on if the student comes to school. The more the student is determined to come, the faster the student will graduate.”

Clara used her determination and perseverance to achieve her personal goal of earning a diploma. She completed her final 25 high school credits at Graduation Pathways and was accepted into SCC’s pharmacy technician program. She said becoming a medical professional would provide both stability and joy in her life.
“It’s reliable,” Clara said. “It’s always going to be here.”
Clara said she had many good memories from her time at Graduation Pathways. She said returning to SCC’s campus for her college courses would remind her of the care and concern LPS staff showed her there.
“I’m definitely going to enjoy coming back here,” Clara said.

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Published: May 28, 2024, Updated: May 29, 2024

Clara smiles outside a Graduation Pathways office room at The Career Academy this spring. She secured her LPS diploma after taking part in the program. She will enroll at Southeast Community College this fall with a goal of becoming a pharmacy technician.