First published on City TV, the San Diego government access channel
In an emotional ceremony at the Central Library, several adults were honored for graduating from high school. For some, it was a celebration decades in the making.
Cindy Juarez dropped out in 10th grade and decided, at the age of 56, it was finally time to get her diploma and advance her current career in the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department. “It was always in the back of my mind, for years.” said Juarez. “I wish that I had done it sooner.” Juarez works as a pump station operator and recently applied for a promotion, to become a certified wastewater operator. She was told a high school diploma is required. “School was tough, I have a hard time in school,” said Juarez. “Now that I’m older, I enjoyed every minute of it. I appreciate that I could do it on my time and it was very convenient, I could do the program at home or come to the library.”
Career Online High School (COHS) is an accredited online high school diploma and career certificate program, offered in partnership with the San Diego Public Library Foundation and Gale, a leading provider of Library resources and part of Cengage Learning. The program is open to San Diego City residents, and provides scholarships to qualified adults who are looking to advance their careers or continue their education.
On Aug. 26, 11 graduates were recognized. All of them have either completed the program or are nearly finished and were invited to participate in the ceremony. The number of students in this graduating class has more than tripled since Mayor Kevin Faulconer launched COHS in 2015.
“What these students have achieved is incredible and I am so proud of their accomplishment, and we are proud that the San Diego Public Library could be part of it through the Career Online High School program,” said Library Director Misty Jones. “We strive to provide opportunities for everyone and these students are a testament to what can be achieved when an opportunity arises.”
Currently, 54 students are actively enrolled in the COHS program. Participants have the flexibility to take classes and access schoolwork online – at their own pace – and receive free support and educational resources from the library. While earning an accredited high school diploma as part of the program, COHS students are also preparing for a career in one of eight high-demand, high-growth fields, including child care and education, Homeland Security, and transportation services.
“Today’s graduation shows how libraries truly change lives, and Gale is proud to work with San Diego Public Library to empower residents,” said Chuck Leachman, Executive Director for Strategic Accounts at Gale.
In San Diego, there are more than 205,000 people, approximately 15 percent of the population, over the age of 25 who do not have a high school diploma. The unemployment rate for this group is double that for high school graduates. COHS is built on an educational model designed to help high school dropouts overcome the reasons they didn’t finish. Many students are able to complete the program in as few as six months.
“Public libraries are the backbone of a neighborhood,” said Councilmember Chris Cate, who attended the ceremony and shook hands with each graduate. “At our libraries, new parents connect at infant story-times, school-based youth have a safe place to study, adults receive a second chance to earn a high school diploma, and our seniors attend classes to interact with one another. When we invest in our libraries, we invigorate our communities.”