Impacting the Community One Graduate at a Time

3 min read

| By Michelle Jeske, City Librarian, and Viviana Casillas, Librarian/Program Manager, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO |

In 2015, the Denver Public Library (DPL) began providing Career Online High School to address needs identified in an earlier community assessment survey. According to the survey, 14 percent of Denver residents did not have a high school diploma or GED. In 2016, the number remained elevated at 15 percent. The mission of the library is to “connect people with information, ideas and experiences to provide enjoyment, enrich lives and strengthen our community.” Career Online High School supports that mission perfectly.

What leads adults to not complete high school? Common responses include the need to help family with home finances, a lack of family support, the increase of peer pressure, class size, and lack of individualized attention. Many students who leave high school feel they do not fit in with a traditional class setting and need to go at their own pace. When they attempt to finish as an adult, barriers include program cost, finding an accredited source, balancing school work with family and work obligations, and access to technology. For many, the need to travel to a certain location to take classes at a distance from work or family creates scheduling conflicts. Earning a diploma often gets pushed aside.

After researching alternatives, the DPL opted for Career Online High School, provided by Gale and its partner Smart Horizons. We felt this program best addressed some of the issues students faced when they were trying to finish school. Adults who are enrolled in the program see the library as a trusted source, which makes it easier to take the step to return to school. The ease of 24/7 access, ongoing support, ability to do school work from home and on multiple devices, and most of all, the chance to earn both a high school diploma and a career certificate through a scholarship, are positive factors.

Since the program began in 2015, the DPL has emphasized the personal connection to students to build relationships, reinforce customer service, and turn library users into library advocates. Students feel more connected to their community library and have found many ways to take advantage of the resources the library offers.

During the 2014-2015 school year, approximately 1,800 students from Denver Public Schools dropped out. With this in mind, the DPL is committed to continuing this program as an alternative for students to finish their education. Viviana Casillas, DPL’s program administrator of COHS who works closely with each student, and the DPL staff are proud of the work and effort of these students. Some graduates have applied to DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals). Others have gained employment or been admitted to college. Most important, each graduate knows that earning their degree opens the door to other opportunities.

Interested in learning more about Career Online High School, visit

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