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Columbia Business Monthly

Richland Library’s Career Online High School helps young adults get their diploma

Feb 04, 2019 11:51AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Debbie Nelson

“I was asleep since I was 17 and now I am awake… and I need to get moving,” shared 22 year-old Diamond Wilson in a recent interview. “I want to lead by example for my four younger siblings, and therefore, I need to get my high school diploma before my sister, Shara, graduates from high school this spring.”

Diamond dropped out of high school in 2014 and moved to Charlotte. She had limited prospects for financial stability. However, she didn’t look back until 2017, when she returned to Columbia. At that time, she realized she needed an education to get ahead. She took the first step and enrolled in an adult education program and attempted to get her GED. 

To survive, Diamond needed to work full-time, so she was unable to dedicate the hours necessary to complete her GED. The demands of the program just didn’t complement her already busy life. She dropped out and once again there seemed to be no opportunities. Diamond explained, “Life can get in the way. How could I get moving?”

In the flash of a text from her grandma, Janet Stroman, Diamond received her answer. Janet, a customer service associate at Richland Library Northeast, had just learned about a brand new program. “Richland Library is about to launch the Career Online High School. I want you to try this out,” encouraged Janet. Now Diamond had an avenue to get moving.

However, there was one more roadblock. To make the program possible with her work schedule, Diamond would need a computer. She only had a cell phone and could not afford a computer. She didn’t know where to turn. Once again, Janet had a solution. She decided that she would buy Diamond a computer as an incentive to complete her high school diploma. This amazing gift of faith offered Diamond the fuel to get started.

First, Diamond and Janet set the ground rules for accomplishing her goal. Diamond blocks out eight to 10 hours each week to complete her studies. She proudly reported that all is going well. Each day, she comes home from work, eats dinner, and then it is time for school. Diamond shared confidently, “My coursework is a priority. I know that graduating from the Career Online High School is my stepping stone to college and a better job.”

Diane Luccy, manager of business and careers at Richland Library, explained, “It’s never been easier for adults to earn their high school diploma. It’s online, free, and can be completed in as little as six months.” The new Career Online High School is designed to re-engage adults into the education system and prepare them for entry into post-secondary career education or the workforce. 

Through this program, qualified community members have the opportunity to earn an accredited high school diploma and credentialed career certificate. A hundred public library systems across the country have similar programs, but Richland Library is the only one in the Carolinas. 

Richland Library will award up to 65 scholarships for the Career Online High School to qualified learners looking to earn a high school diploma and advance their careers.  To qualify for a scholarship, students must be 21 or older as well as a hold a Richland Library card. Admission does not require U.S. Citizenship. While the program is free for these students, the cost to the library is $1,200 per student. 

To get started, prospective students must take a self-assessment, and then they complete a prerequisite course in two weeks or less with a score of 70 or higher. The next step is an interview to determine whether or not the student is a “good fit” for the program.

The Career Online High School program pairs each student with an academic coach, who assists with developing an individual career plan, offers ongoing guidance and encouragement, evaluates performance, and connects the learner with necessary resources. 

Diamond appreciates this ongoing support. “I get check-in texts, calls, and emails. My coach asks me questions like ‘How is it going? How can we support you?’”

She added,  “They actually care about me.”

Classes are supported by board-certified instructors and students have 24/7 access to the online learning platform. Coursework begins in one of 10 high-growth, high-demand career fields (across a wide spectrum from child care and education to certified transportation), before progressing to the core academic subjects. 

Diamond chose the general career path so she can prepare for college.  Her program includes classes that address soft skills, learning skills, and specific topics such as résumé preparation. Her ultimate goal is to go to college and study forensic science. 

Students who graduate from the Career Online High School also have access to the other resources offered by Richland Library.  The state-of-the-art Business, Careers and Research Center assists customers with their résumés, interview skills, and new business and career opportunities. 

“Whether you're looking to schedule an appointment with a career coach or need assistance with small business resources, our team of highly trained librarians and career coaches is here to help turn dreaming into doing,” explained Luccy.

Diamond Wilson is determined to complete her studies in less than six months and graduate in 2019. She can’t wait for her four siblings to attend her graduation. 

“It will send them a clear message about how important it is to stay awake and graduate from high school. They need to keep moving to have opportunities in the future,” concluded Diamond. 

For more information about the Career Online High School, visit richlandlibrary.com/event/2019-01-23/career-online-high-school-cohs-information  or contact Diane Luccy at DLuccy@RichlandLibrary.com  

Debbie Nelson is the President of DNA Creative Communications, an inspirational marketing and public relations firm for nonprofits. She is the founder of Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums in the Upstate and at the state level she coordinates Together SC’s Knowledge Network. 

Join Shine the Light on Monday, Feb. 25 (4-6 PM) as we Launch into the Future at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate (300 College St, Greenville). Register for this FREE networking event at nonprofitforums.org.