Public Library Offers Hope and a Second Chance at Earning a High School Diploma

Richland County resident Jason Scott learned the cost of leaving high school at 17 to care for his infant daughter. “Since 1988, I couldn’t get those better-paying jobs without a diploma.” Things are looking up since he saw a Career Online High School poster at his local library and asked the person at the desk, “How do I sign up?”

 

 

 
Philip Windsor, business and careers
librarian,works with COHS
student Jason Scott.


Richland County resident Jason Scott learned the cost of leaving high school at 17 to care for his infant daughter. “Since 1988, I couldn’t get those better-paying jobs without a diploma.” Things are looking up since he saw a Career Online High School poster at his local library and asked the person at the desk, “How do I sign up?”

 
Richland Library Main,
(photo by Eric Blake)

According to Janet Hatch, Richland’s business and careers librarian and certified career coach, “10 percent of Richland County adults don’t have a high school diploma.” That is approximately 40,000 people. To address this issue, in 2018, Richland became the first library in the Carolinas to offer Career Online High School. In partnership with Gale, a Cengage Company, this program gives adults 21 and older, the opportunity to earn a free, accredited high school diploma and receive an entry-level certificate in one of 10 career fields.
 

Going Beyond GED Programs

Even though South Carolina public schools offer Adult Education GED programs, students often struggle to finish because of a lack of funds or the demands of work and family schedules. Hatch sees Career Online High School as a solution to her community’s career needs because it offers the flexibility of a 24/7 online format and free academic support.

As part of their mission, Richland Library works to eliminate barriers and provide equal opportunity in their community. Since they began offering Career Online High School, 16 Richland County students have graduated and 58 are currently enrolled in the program. Executive Director, Melanie Huggins, feels that Career Online High School is a good fit. “Almost 575,000 adults in South Carolina are at a disadvantage because they’re less likely to earn as much as those who have completed high school,” said Huggins.

On average, adults without a diploma earn $10,000 less per year than a high school graduate. Huggins says, “Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement and access to the right tools to jump-start your education or career.”
 

Determined to Succeed

Refusing to give up for his daughter’s sake, Scott applied to Career Online High School because he could get “job training and a diploma all in one.” He likes “being able to do this online at home. “I’m a single parent, so I can be a dad and a student at the same time,” said Scott.

Another program benefit many students find key to their progress is having dedicated academic coaches who provide support and extra motivation. The program is free to students who are approved for a scholarship. Applicants complete a 15-question online assessment, a 2-week prerequisite course, and an in-person interview with the library’s staff. If accepted, the student picks a career track in one of 10 high-demand fields ranging from Home Care Professional and Office Management to Homeland Security. Graduates either go to work with their new certificates or go to college to further their education.

Huggins is inspired by students like Scott. She says, “Career Online High School has truly given people hope. The personal stories that they share—the stories that have brought them to this point—are so moving. Many thought they would never get this chance again.”
 

Request more information at gale.com/cohs
 

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