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Roane students bridge GAP toward diploma

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Some Roane County Schools students are getting a second chance to earn a high school diploma.

Graduation Assistance Path at Midtown Education Center is available for students who are either not on track to graduate with their class or simply did not “fit” in with the traditional school program.

“This program is for the really motivated students who want to complete their high school education,” said Joe Parker, Roane County Schools secondary supervisor and program administrator.

“We screen them, and they must meet our guidelines to remain in the program,” he added. “Many are already 18 years old; this gives them an opportunity to get that second chance, but they must work at it. Nothing is given to them.”

The students come from all five Roane County high schools. They are recommended by their principal and must meet certain requirements to be in the program.

They proceed at their own pace using various curriculum software programs supplied by the district.

As they finish their courses, they are rewarded by seeing their name and completed course on the “Wall of Honor.”

Students who complete all requirements for a Tennessee diploma graduate with a regular high school diploma, an achievement some never thought they would accomplish.

“I heard about the GAP program from my home school,” said participant Stephanie H. “I wasn’t too sure about it until I met with Mrs. [GAP coordinator and teacher Patricia] Powell. I feel a lot more confident now about being able to graduate in the spring of 2011.”

She added, “The program is easy, and you can work at your own pace. It is not for everyone, though. You must really be
determined and work very hard.”

Powell helps the students by loading required courses needed to graduate, managing progress records and reports, and daily encouraging and motivating the students to progress toward making that diploma a reality. That ties in with the class theme, “The Sacrifice Brings the Diploma to Life.”

Every student has an individualized program determined by their past school performance and transcript.

Students are evaluated at their home school and at Midtown.

Certified teachers in all subjects are available at Midtown Education Center to assist the students if the computerized instruction does not give them enough information.

“The GAP program is something that I believe is good because it gave me a chance I wouldn’t have gotten at my home school,” said Miles B. “GAP cares about their students and shows it with positive support and help in all classes; they bring speakers in to give us some options in the work world to think about.”

This is the second year the program has been operating at MEC. Eight students finished the program and gained their high school diploma last year. So far this year, two have finished the program and are graduates; they will receive their diplomas at a GAP graduation ceremony this spring.

“I messed up my freshman year because I thought it was cool not to do my work and sleep all day,” said Chelsey B. “Well, I found out real quick it wasn’t cool to do that. They told me about this program, and I
said, ‘I want to join if that is going to help me fulfill my goal of graduating high school; I would be the second person in my family to graduate high school ever!’”

Midtown Education Center Princpal Chris Johnson said the GAP program has offered some students a new lease on life.

“At our intake meetings, you can see the hope begin to grow in their eyes,” he said. “They begin to realize that this is a second chance for them. We just hope that they all take advantage of it.”

Nickey O. believes the GAP program has been a great experience.

“It has taught me patience and good work ethic,” she said. “Now, I am not saying that it is easy, because it is not; you have to stay on task and get your work done.”

She added, “Being in GAP has really opened my eyes and showed me the real world.”

The program is assessed every year for its effectiveness and success rate. While not all students complete the program, it has helped those who are really determined to get that diploma rather than a GED.

“We feel that this program is a viable option for those students who just do not function in the regular classroom setting, but who work well on their own,” Parker said.

“We want to see them finish and be successful.”