On Saturday, June 26, the Gwinnett County Public Library celebrated the newest graduates of the Career Online High School program with caps and gowns, refreshments and a short ceremony attended by community leaders, library staff and the students’ friends and families.
“This is about a second chance, about our students getting to experience what everyone who graduated on time got to experience, so we really wanted to celebrate them and honor them in a traditional way,” said Casey Wallace, training manager for Gwinnett County Public Library, “When it all comes together, it really makes them feel like they’ve made it and they’ve accomplished something. It’s one thing to finish your diploma and get it in the mail and be able to move on, but it means so much more to have an event that really marks your achievement.”
The Career Online High School program is designed to prepare local adults for reentry into the education system by providing affordable opportunities for learning. Through an 18-month program, students are able to attend classes and earn credits that satisfy high school diploma requirements.
“Most people, when they think of finishing high school as an adult, think (about) the G.E.D. system,” Wallace said. “But for many people, it may not fulfill exactly what they’re looking for. For a big portion of our students, they want to recapture a lost opportunity and want to be examples to their children and families.”
This program is possible through a partnership between the Gwinnett County Public Library and Smart Horizons, an accredited institution that offers online diploma programs. By offering these resources to older students, Wallace believes programs such as Career Online High School can help change the way local libraries are perceived.
“Many people consider the library to be a children’s space,” she said, “but there are some very unique, very impactful programs and tools available to expand their knowledge and improve their work skills. It is one of my favorite things about the library, and I want to encourage anyone who may be interested to come contact us and learn more.”
The program, which saw nine graduates this year, looks to expand the number of students and invites community volunteers to mentor those taking part in the program. For Wallace, that growth includes reaching out to more potential students by encouraging them to take that next step.
“We are really looking for people who have an idea of where they want to go and are ready to make that commitment to be successful,” Wallace said. “I’m so glad we were able to celebrate these new graduates in this way because it is hard. It’s hard to go back to school as an adult; everyone wants a piece of your time. You have so many responsibilities. But for these students to set those things aside and complete these huge goals is something worth celebrating.”