A Second Chance at Earning a High School Diploma

WBG Administrator COHS, Featured

4 min read

| By Gale Staff |

Two Richland County residents look forward to graduating from their local library’s Career Online High School program.

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 better 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?”

Phillip Windsor, Business and Careers Librarian works with COHS student Jason Scott

Richland Library offers Career Online High School, in partnership with Gale, a Cengage company, to adults 21 and older who want to earn a free, accredited high school diploma and receive an entry-level career certificate.

Another Richland County resident who left high school early, Diamond Wilson, learned about Career Online High School from her grandmother, a library employee. She quickly applied. “I have to become someone in life, and without a high school diploma nowadays, you’re basically in the blind.”

Richland Library works to eliminate barriers and provide equal opportunity in their community. In 2018, it became the only library in the Carolinas to offer Career Online High School. Janet Hatch, Business and Careers Librarian and Certified Career Coach, stated, “Ten percent of Richland County adults don’t have a high school diploma. That’s 40,000 people.”

Even though South Carolina public schools offer adult 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. At graduation, her students will receive an accredited high school diploma plus a certificate in one of the 10 career fields.

Since 2018, two Richland County students have graduated and four are on track to graduate this October. After offering career services for nearly 10 years, Executive Director Melanie Huggins says Career Online High School became a perfect 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.” On average, adults without a diploma earn $10,000 less per year than a high school graduate.1 Huggins says, “Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement and access to the right tools to jump-start your education or career.”

Career Online High School is perfect for adults interested in finishing high school. Diane Luccy, Business and Careers Manager, invites any Richland County resident 21 or older with a library card to apply. She adds, “We are inspired and humbled by our students, ages 22 to 70, who overcome major challenges in their lives to become Career Online High School students and eventually Career Online High School graduates.”

Refusing to give up for his daughter’s sake, Scott applied because he could get “job training and a diploma all in one.” Another great thing about Career Online High School for Scott is the convenient, 24/7 online classroom access. 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.”

The best part of the program for Wilson is having dedicated academic coaches who provide support and extra motivation. She appreciates those who “helped me through the journey by always checking on me to make sure I’m OK and checking to see how they could help me.”

COHS student Diamond Wilson navigates the library’s website with Kris Dempster, Business and Careers Librarian and Career Coach

The program is free to students who are approved for a scholarship. Applicants complete an online 15-question self-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 hospitality and leisure to Homeland Security. Graduates either go to work with their new certificates or go to college to further their education.

Richland Library has a designated staff member from Midlands Technical College (MTC) on hand and waives the application fee for Career Online High School graduates. Wilson plans to enroll in MTC’s forensic science program.

Luccy says whether headed to college or work, “Our goal is to have our Career Online High School graduates leave the program with an ‘action plan’ for their next career steps already in place.” Scott looks forward to graduating with his career certificate in hand and “finding that better-paying job. My future looks better than it did before Career Online High School.”

Huggins is inspired by students like Mr. Scott and Ms. Wilson, “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.” Wilson is so excited, “This is what I know I want to do!” Scott recommends “to anyone that doesn’t have a diploma—go to Richland Library and talk to someone about joining Career Online High School. It’s the best move you can make.”

Are you curious? Learn more about offering Career Online High School to your community.

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Richland Library Main Photographer Eric Blake

1. U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2016, https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm