| Originally posted on The Western Edition, April 6, 2017 |
For those who did not get the opportunity to complete high school, there is still a chance to receive an accredited high school diploma through the Career Online High School program at the San Francisco Public Library — SFPL.
The program was first developed in 2012 through a partnership with Gale—an education and technology company—and Smart Horizons Career Online, according to Leigh Ann Cusack, the senior director at Gale for public and consortia products.
The 18-credit program was adapted for the public library market by Gale, a Cengage Company, in 2014, and was added to the San Francisco Public Library in June 2015.
It is funded by the California State Library and Gov. Jerry Brown, and individual libraries receive funding from the state library to provide it for free to qualifying residents, according to Cusack.
“The library is sort of the ultimate resource for people who want to learn on their own and who may not feel comfortable in a school-type institutional setting. That may be why they didn’t graduate from school in the first place. So, the idea that we can provide that through a library, where our focus is on individual learning, was very appealing.”
—Laura Lent, chief of Collections and Technical Services @ SFPL
The staff, she added, felt a great need for the program as opposed to one that offered a GED certificate, because the high school diploma is still required for many jobs. Receiving a high school diploma is the first step for the students who are happy with their careers, but would like to advance further.
So far, three people have graduated and roughly three dozen students are currently enrolled, who Lent said tend to be middle-aged folks working full-time and looking to fit the course into their schedule.
Kevin Surles, a graduate of the program, was motivated to join after seeing a flier on a bulletin board while at work. During his previous high school career, he was only a couple credits away from graduating when he committed to joining the U.S. Marine Corps, but had since reached a place in his life where he wanted to further his education.
“I’ve always had a desire, but, you know how things happen,” Surles said. “You get married, have children, time just flies. You’re just involved with living life. You just neglected the things you desired to do. I wanted to go back, and I wanted to start there because I’m enrolled in City College right now. I want to go on and get my degree.”
Surles enrolled in May 2016, was selected for the tuition scholarship, and completed the program with an office management certificate in September.
While the experience of not having traditional teachers was different, Surles said having the support during the online courses was positive. “I would describe the experience as really supportive,” he said. “Very clear and concise. It was well-planned out. I feel like the library, the program was really there to help you and to support you in achieving that diploma.”
Having the first graduation ceremony was an historic moment for the library, and something they hope to continue, along with promoting the program more, Lent stated.
“I think success for us will be things like people being able to fulfill their hopes and dreams for their work life,” Lent said. “That could mean being able to afford staying in San Francisco as opposed to not being able to — that can mean a better life for their children and family. For some people, it’s a point of pride to tell their kids they have a high school diploma, and you can do that, too.’”
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