A second chance at a diploma
A week before graduating from the District 833 Diploma Center, Erika Bailey said she feels as if her life is just beginning.
Bailey didn't get a diploma when her class at Park High School graduated in 2008, but she's got one now.
"I'm going to get out there now, and see what's in the rest of the world," she said. "I'm very excited."
Bailey was among the School District 833 Diploma Center graduates at a ceremony held June 15, at the District Program Center.
Park and Woodbury high schools were equally represented among the 28 students who didn't want a GED diploma. Instead, they sought diplomas like the ones they would have received if they had stayed in high school.
Bailey is taking CPR and first-aid classes. She is seeking a license for piercing and intends to own her own tattoo and piercing business.
The center, under Community Education Director Ernie Pines, offers students who quit high school a chance to return. In small groups, online, in classes and under counselor supervision, students get an actual diploma, which the graduates say is important.
"There is not one person who didn't think, didn't believe, that they were going to have at least a high school diploma -- there's not a five year old out there who says 'I'm not going to graduate from high school'," Diploma Center principal Jim Stocco said. "It's a lifelong dream to complete that high school diploma."
The Diploma Center opened about 30 years ago as an alternative program to the GED.
To date, between 500 and 600 students have graduated from the program.
"These students had the courage to say that they are going to finish what they started," Stocco said. "It took courage, and courage is heart."
Stocco said the Diploma Center curriculum covers the same material as a regular high school, but the lessons are tweaked slightly so that they are relevant to adults.
"Students come here with fear and apprehension because they remember what it was that made them not finish in the first place -- most of these students didn't drop out because they couldn't do the work, life got in the way for one reason or another," he said. "We'll keep you marching towards your dream."
The complete story is available in the Wednesday, June 23 print edition of the Woodbury Bulletin.