Many students entering a High School Completion Program are young adults or adults who struggled in a traditional high school setting for a variety of reasons. These students enrolled in the diploma completion program are looking for a second chance at not only earning their high school diploma, but to embark on a journey towards post-secondary education, and, ultimately better career options.
The facilitator is a key component to a successful High School Completion program. This facilitator need not be a certified teacher. They are there to serve as a mentor, coach and motivator inside of and outside of the classroom. This single individual will spend significant blocks of time with these former high school dropouts, and as such, they are critical to the success of the student. Rather than just facilitate the learning process, they have a unique opportunity to reframe education as an attainable goal. On a recent visit to a partner school, we found that they start with the end in mind. Upon enrollment in the High School Completion program, they take pictures of the students in a cap and gown, and hang those framed images on a wall in a high traffic area. Every day, these former high school dropouts walk past the picture of themselves in a cap and gown, and reminds them of why the embarked on this journey.
Society views this demographic of students as adult youth that “failed” out of high school, or just quit going. But often times, they lacked a mentor in school or encouragement from family members, and were failed by the school system. When students have no one to tell them “I see your hard work and determination, keep up the good work,” the struggle to learn doesn’t seem worth it, and graduation feels much less attainable. For former high school dropouts who were failed by the traditional school system, they are putting a lot on the line to make that second attempt at not just obtaining a high school diploma, but also to work towards a degree which will catapult them into a high-growth career.
There’s a wide perception that high school dropouts are a lost cause, as these students chose to disengage from education, and thereby created their own destiny of economic struggle. But our partner schools are finding the exact opposite is occurring. They understand most of these students are great people that have had challenged circumstances. Now that these students have someone, or multiple someones, rooting for their success and patting them on the back for completing Algebra I, has created outcomes beyond expectations. Not only are these students graduating with their high school diploma, sponsored by career schools, but many students are matriculating into the sponsor school, and are more engaged and motivated than some of the other students who walked in off the street. Having undergone a motivational experience, and having experienced success academically for the first time in their lives, the students emerge from the program feeling confident in their abilities to learn and achieve, and can, for the first time, see themselves as college students. But it all starts with how we frame “education” and the role of the facilitator.