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2017 May 11 - 04:57 pm

Wash. College Provides Adults with Path Toward Diploma

High School Equivalency Program Aimed at Students Older than 21


BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) — The lack of a single high school class has been a stumbling block for Lyle Candia throughout his career.

The 49-year-old Olympic College student who worked in the hospitality industry and diverse other jobs was passed over for promotions on more than one occasion, watching others less qualified but with high school diplomas tapped for advancement.

“It was something I always wanted to take care of,” Candia said of his goal to complete high school. “I had rent. I had bills. Life just got in the way.”

This fall, Candia earned the credit he needed to graduate high school through OC’s High School 21+ program, which offers adult students nontraditional ways to complete classes. In Candia’s case, the college arranged for him to take an independent study art class. He is now pursuing a business management degree at OC, hoping for a career in human resources.

Students at OC have long had the option to complete their GED through the college’s Adult Basic Education program. The 21+ program was added a year ago, modeled on a program developed by the state Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

High School 21+ is a high school equivalency program for students 21 years or older. Students may take missing classes for high school credit such as English or math through OC’s Basic Studies Department. The program also grants credits for alternate means of demonstrating competency.

Work, life and military experience might translate to credits through the program. For example, a mom who is certified in first aid and CPR may receive an elective health credit. Students’ high school transcripts and any college classes completed also are considered.

Students work with staff in the Basic Studies Department to develop a portfolio and plan for completing missing credits. An orientation and assessment are required. The cost is $25 per quar ter.

Where the GED requires passing four comprehensive tests in language arts, social studies, science and math, the 21+ program offers the option of completing one class at a time. The choice of a GED versus 21+ depends on the circumstances and preferences of each student, said Cindy Metcalf, adult education coordinator.

“We’re very individualized and really work on students’ individual pathways,” Metcalf said.

“It’s really a great option that expands that high school diploma opportunity for individuals over the age of 21,” said Teresa McDermott, associate dean for Basic Studies.

The program is available on OC campuses in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Shelton.

Deanna Leaverton, 53, should have graduated from high school in 1981, but she dropped out at the start of her senior year.

“Throughout my life, I made a lot of bad decisions,” said Leaverton, who became a single parent and was addicted to drugs for 21 years.

She’s been off drugs for 14 years and is pursuing her high school degree one class at a time through the 21+ program while working full time at the deli in WinCo. She’s happy in her current job, but wants to expand her options.

“I’m not eligible for any kind of promotions without a high school diploma or GED,” she said. “I don’t want somebody to tell me I can’t. I want it to be my decision.”

Leaverton lacked seven credits and is working on her fifth. She tried to complete her GED but found the pace of 21+ easier. In her youth, she got C’s and D’s. Now she gets good grades. Smaller classes through OC help, since she struggles with attention deficit disorder.

Leaverton praised the support she gets from OC staff and the flexibility of the program.

“I recommend it to anyone who is over 21, especially if you’re lacking a few credits,” she said.

Leaverton expects she will graduate high school within a year and be eligible to take part next spring in OC’s celebration for high school graduates. Her mind drifts forward to seeing herself in cap and gown, her kids and grandkids there in the audience cheering for her.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she said.

Information from: Kitsap Sun, http://www.kitsapsun.com/

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