Taylor Co. educators become researchers in program to help nontraditional students get their diplomas; pupils must meet diploma requirements from time they were in school

Central Kentucky News Journal, Campbellsville, July 28, 2017

Program helps dropouts earn diplomas

By Zac Oakes

“Raising the Quality of Life, One Human Being at a Time.”

It’s a motto that Taylor County Schools Superintendent Roger Cook has been putting into practice the last few years to help those who dropped out of high school.

The Taylor County School District offers the RQ1 program to anyone who dropped out of high school and is seeking to obtain their high school diploma.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, when you dropped out, where you’re from, or any of that,” Cook said. “It’s a matter of if you’re willing to put in the work to do it.”

Through the program, which is the only one in the state according to Cook, people can take classes online and earn credits toward obtaining their high school diploma.

Cook said it is a personal issue for him, having eight siblings that dropped out of school.

Program coordinators with the Taylor County School District put in plenty of time researching and creating educational paths for these non-traditional students. They go back and examine how many high school credits the person already has through transcripts from the high schools and match them with graduation requirements from the year they would graduate.

“They don’t have to meet the requirements of today, just the requirements they would have needed to meet from the time they were in school,” Cook said.

He said the research has to become even more thorough when it comes to those who are from states other than Kentucky seeking to receive their diploma, as the graduation requirements from that state are used.

Since the implementation of the program about six or seven years ago, according to Cook, 14 individuals have obtained their high school diplomas from Taylor County High School.

One of the requirements for completion of the program, Cook said, is attending a meeting of the Taylor County Board of Education to be recognized for the achievement.

“It’s like a graduation ceremony for them,” Cook said.

One of the most memorable “graduations” that occurred was a father and son that finished the program together and earned their diplomas at the same time.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the board room that night,” Cook said. “The whole family was there, and it was just a really emotional moment for father and son and that family, and for everyone.”

One key aspect of the program is the school district’s partnership with Murakami Manufacturing. Cook said he has partnered with Murakami so that when a person takes part in the program, they will be considered for part-time employment at Murakami, and after finishing the program, they are interviewed for a full-time position, providing an immediate career pathway for those who finish the program.

The program has been especially beneficial for The Healing Place of Campbellsville, a local male-only recovery center.

Taylor County Schools partnered with The Healing Place for residents to take part in the program in order to obtain their high school diploma.

“The Healing Place really has a great program, and we’re glad that residents there are taking part in this program,” Cook said. “Through it, they can work around their schedules and earn their diploma while going through their recovery. We are proud to have those folks.”

So far, five residents of The Healing Place have graduated the program, and another four are currently taking classes online. Two of those are nearing completion in the next couple of months, according to The Healing Place volunteer Elise Everett.

Everett is a retired teacher, but began volunteering at The Healing Place in 2012. She became involved with the RQ1 program around 2014 and now volunteers mostly with assisting residents who dropped out of high school and want to earn a diploma.

She provides tutoring and academic assistance for those in the program. Everett said some people come in to the program only lacking a couple of classes from receiving a diploma, while others come in lacking several classes, so the timespan it takes for someone to finish the program can vary greatly.

After finishing the requirements to receive their high school diploma, some residents take their education even further and apply to enroll at Campbellsville University, according to Everett.

Everett said that seeing one of the residents earn their diploma is very satisfying for her.

“I am like a proud mother,” Everett said. “I want to see them do well, and it makes me really happy to see their hard work pay off. It’s a really big deal for them.”

Everett said she is thankful that the Taylor County School District offers the program because it gives residents of The Healing Place a second chance.

“We really appreciate them giving these guys a second chance,” Everett said. “It makes a difference for them.”

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