A new program to help fifth-year Columbia County high school seniors get their diplomas more quickly starts Monday at the alternative school in Grovetown.
Called Saving Our Students (S.O.S.), the program specifically targets seniors who would benefit from an alternative to the traditional high school setting. They’ll work in the alternative school’s computer lab 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday, taking online courses on the Georgia Virtual School system under the tutelage of high school graduation coaches.
Many fifth-year seniors detest having to learn in a typical school setting, with some feeling too old, said alternative school Principal Dr. Ja’net Bishop.
“The motivation to complete their classes can be lackluster and adds to the dropout rate,” Bishop said. “With the S.O.S. program, what we hope is that giving them the benefit of starting their day a little bit later and ending earlier, they’ll still be motivated to get their diplomas.
“We’re recognizing that they’re getting older and want to move on with their lives, but we’re also recognizing that they should not completely move on until they’ve completed their high school requirements.”
Others opted for the S.O.S. program for the structure.
The first semester of the program features just 18 students chosen by graduation coaches. They will be allowed to socialize only with other S.O.S. students, are allowed no more than five absences, are expected to work on assignments outside of class, and must provide their own transportation.
Such structure appealed to Ashley Garland, 18, a self-described “social butterfly” too easily distracted from her schoolwork.
“I like that it’s only four days a week, so I can look for a job,” said Garland, who eventually hopes to attend college to become a teacher or cosmetologist.
“I just want to get in here, do what I need to do, and get my diploma,” she said following an orientation meeting Thursday. “I want to be done.”
An added benefit is that the S.O.S. students won’t have to attend school an entire semester.
Bishop said the students could complete the class requirements by March 5. The semester ends for them on May 10.
With the half-day schedule, Bishop said she expects many students in the program will seek part-time jobs. But by ending their semester early, she added that the students also get the chance to start full-time job searches before many of their peers, or can apply early to continue their education at colleges or technical schools.
Graduation coaches at the orientation said they also intend to work with the students on creating resumes and hope to bring in college recruiters to meet with them.
“This (program) is the first step to the next step,” said Evans High graduation coach Lisa Augustine-Chizmar.