Each year about 1.2 million students will not graduate high school. Coordinators at Step Up Community Learning Centers want to change that, and they offer classes to help adults earn credits and formally earn their high school diploma.
"We have four kids. It meant a lot to me for our kids to see us graduate. I didn't want them to ever feel like we gave up," Ciara Wright said.
Terry and Ciara Wright's four kids saw their mom graduate. This year their dad will also earn his high school diploma from Step Up. The organization partners with local school districts to offer classes that earn high school credits.
"It meant a lot to see myself graduate and walk across the stage part was the biggest part for me, and it made me want that even more for college," Ciara Wright said.
After completing the Step Up program, Ciara Wright is about to earn her emergency medical technician, or EMT, license.
"I'm taking up the welding trade and after that I want to get into business school and just take it to higher limits," Terry Wright said.
The couple started their family young and immediately entered the work force instead of completing high school.
"Our oldest student, Mrs. Chang, she is earning her diploma in her fourth language, which I think is extraordinary," said Suzy Reuber, a coordinator with the Step Up Community Learning Center, said.
Students attend class at the Step Up Community Center in the 500 block of Harrison in Olathe, KS. Staff evaluate the students' transcripts to determine what courses are needed to earn a high school diploma. The students' courses are tailored to meet those needs.
Step Up employees said it is not a "watered down degree," but the same curriculum required by local school districts. The hands-on classes allow adults to earn their diplomas with the help of a teacher.
The goal is to make students more employable, able to further their education and adds protection once they get a job.
"When someone gets word you need to cut the workforce by 5 percent, human resource officers often go through and say, 'diploma, no diploma' and the no diplomas are automatically more vulnerable," Reuber said.
The Wrights, entering the Step Up program together, will both leave the program with their diplomas.
"If you don't make the effort, you are not going to get your high school diploma here," Ciara Wright said. "I felt coming here, it set my life to say, 'I can do it.'"
Many of the students enrolled in Step Up work 40 hours a week or more, while taking classes. Since they opened in 2000, the organization has enrolled about 2,500 students.
Anyone, 18 years of age or older, can participate. Click here for more information.
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