On a chilly November evening at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance filled the Truman Forum. The auditorium was filled with smiling audience members holding phones and cameras high. At least three video cameras were positioned in different parts of the room to capture the event. In the corner, a reporter and photographer from 41 Action News were ready to shoot video and get interviews. All eyes were on the women wearing caps and gowns on the stage. They were the first class of graduates through the unique Career Online High School program.
Career Online High School is a fully accredited online high school program offered in Kansas City through the Kansas City Public Library, Mid-Continent Public Library, and Literacy KC. The flexible, self-paced program confers both accredited high school diplomas and certification in selected career paths.
Participants have up to 18 months to complete coursework, and can graduate in as few as six months by transferring previously earned high school credits.
The class of 2017 included a 31-year-old mother of four who made a point of carving out a couple of hours a day to work toward her diploma, another mother who juggled classes with two children and two jobs, and others marking their later-in-life return to school a success.
At the November 9 ceremony, two of the graduates took to the podium, speaking to their fellow classmates about the difference their diploma will make in their lives.
“When I started the program, I was reading at a seventh-grade level,” said graduate Tierra Lewis. “Now, my reading skills are improved and I can teach my children why reading and math affect every part of life. We can use math and strong reading skills to follow recipes when we bake together, and most importantly I can help them with their own homework.”
Nela Bruner, a graduate and mother of five who works full time, became emotional when she described what lead her to Career Online High School. “I had already received my high school diploma through another online course, but one day I got a phone call notifying me the program was under investigation and my diploma was likely unaccredited, which meant I didn’t really graduate high school.” Knowing her job required her to have at least a high school diploma, Bruner did some research and found COHS. She applied for a scholarship and completed the program is less time than expected. Now, with a diploma secured, she’s already enrolled in Kansas City Kansas Community College.
The Kansas City Public Library, MCPL, and Literacy KC have provided scholarships for more than two dozen COHS students.
One of those scholarship recipients was Renee Dupree, a mother of two who worked two jobs while taking classes. She managed to complete her classes sooner than she expected. “It was a lot of early mornings, a lot of late nights, and going off three to four hours of sleep,” she says. “But my children played a major part. When they see me on my laptop, they say, ‘Mommy’s doing homework. Let’s be quiet.’”
She plans to move on to college, and has been accepted at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Forty-one Kansas City-area students are currently enrolled in Career Online High School through the two libraries and Literacy KC, and additional scholarships are available. For information, go to http://www.careeronlinehs.gale.com/kc/.
The program receives major funding from the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee; the Friends of the Kansas City Public Library; UMB Big Bash; the R.A. Long Foundation; PNC Bank, and U.S. Bank.