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Fulton County program aimed at dropouts

October 19, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WARFORDSBURG, Pa. - Fulton County's double-digit unemployment rate has renewed interest in a diploma program aimed at high school dropouts.

The Southern Fulton School District started the program in better economic times, but began receiving more inquiries as unemployment climbed. At its worst, the county's unemployment rate was 16 percent in February.

Applicants, who must be at least 21 years old and residents of the district, could have dropped out of school for any reason. Many wanted to work or weren't getting along with a teacher, Principal Meredith Hendershot said.

People seem to appreciate receiving a diploma rather than a GED because of a pride factor, Hendershot said.

"It does take several months, and for some people, it takes a year," she said.

"We did not just want to give a diploma," Superintendent Ralph Scott said in an earlier interview.

Adult learners meet with Hendershot, a former guidance counselor, to review what classes they missed according to their high school transcript. Most of the time, all that remains are core classes such as math and social studies.

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Students can use workbooks or an online curriculum through blendedschools.net to complete class work.

"It's a self-paced program," Hendershot said. "The students can take whatever time they need."

One woman struggling with a math concept received an offer from a Southern Fulton teacher who was willing to bring her into the classroom a few times.

"The teachers here have been wonderful," Hendershot said. "They pitch in on their own time and grade work for me."

One man who didn't generally read the newspaper received a current events assignment that allowed him to find stories that were important to him.

"Those types of assignments are so meaningful to them and us. I'm a big proponent of teaching people how to learn," Hendershot said, saying it also is important to incorporate technology.

Pennsylvania CareerLink refers displaced workers, such as the certified nursing assistant who never received a high school diploma and now needed one for her employer. Other participants have been parents of Southern Fulton's traditional students.

Seven adult learners enrolled in 2007-08, the program's first year. A few enrolled every year since, and one person will receive a diploma Tuesday.

At the end of the program, graduates write an autobiography about why they dropped out of high school and what motivated them to return. They then receive a diploma from the Southern Fulton School Board.

For more information, call the high school at 717-294-3251.

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