Going Back to School

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Originally posted in The Virginian-Pilot, November 11, 2016

Residents looking to finish their high school education can now do it through the public library and Career Online High School. 

The city is offering an online curriculum for adults to get their diplomas. It’s the first program of its kind in the state and when full, will help 25 Virginia Beach residents get their diplomas.

It’s a free course, completed at home on the students’ own time. That made it especially appealing for Krista Halzack, one of five current students. The 35-year-old has two kids and works part-time.

“I went and applied for it right away,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in finishing my education.”

At the end of the course, students get a diploma from an accredited school, said library project manager Dotsy Harland. It’s not the same as a GED, and the online high school requires students to pick a concentration in one of several areas including child care, homeland security and office management.

To become a student, an applicant must be a Virginia Beach resident. They have to complete an initial assessment and interview with library staff. Staff members use the interview to make sure they’re offering one of the limited spots to someone motivated to finish.

Students can transfer credits from their high school, and that will determine what they’ll learn in the online program. They have 18 months to complete it, regardless of what level they start at.

Halzack repeated ninth grade three times and dropped out of high school halfway through 10th grade. She was a good student, she said, but she was distracted by her parents’ divorce and easily influenced by her friends.

Halzack works on her high school diploma online in the evenings at her home in Virginia Beach between being a mother and part-time daycare employee.

“It wasn’t a matter of the work being an issue, it was the showing up that was an issue,” said Halzack, who attended Cox and Ocean Lakes high schools. “School was just not as important as hanging out with my friends.”

Halzack has always wanted to get her diploma, but GED programs were too pricey and inconvenient. Plus, she never had a reason to until she got older, she said.

She had her first child at 23 and had a good support system, so she didn’t need to pursue a career. She thought she had plenty of time to get a diploma if she wanted. As she got older, that changed.

“I’d like to have a career to do something for myself,” Halzack said.

Halzack is taking classes in child care as part of her program and wants to continue studying, especially child nutrition, at Tidewater Community College.

About 93 percent of residents over 15 in Virginia Beach are high school graduates, according to the U.S. Census. The library system didn’t spring for the online diploma project because the majority of residents need it, said director of libraries Eva Poole, but because it’s helpful.

“If we can have 25 people who need the service, it’s worth every penny,” she said.

Poole and Harland are excited for the first cohort of graduates. They’re not sure what a graduation ceremony would be like for a self-guided online program, but they know they want to have one.

“It would be like being a proud mother in the library,” Poole said. “They would be Virginia Beach Public Library graduates.”


Learn more about providing your community with accredited high school diplomas today!

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