Grown-ups get second chance for a high school diploma

08/14/2014 7:43 PM

08/14/2014 7:44 PM

A new option has opened for adults who never finished high school. A free program with online classes and teacher tutors offers a second chance for a diploma through a state Workforce Investment Act grant.

Delta Charter Online, part of the New Jerusalem Elementary School District in Tracy, has partnered with Community Business College in Modesto and San Joaquin County WorkNet to provide a virtual path to graduation.

“What happens is when they try to get a job or advance in a current job, they run into roadblocks when they don’t have a diploma,” said Jeff Tilton, superintendent of Delta charter schools. Participants work at their own pace, taking several years if needed, with extra help from a Delta teacher or tutors provided through the Delta program.

Unlike commercial GED prep courses, there is no cost to the individual. The WIA grant pays for the charter school program based on how many participants it has and how long they take, said New Jerusalem Superintendent David Thoming. The service began in May and has about 15 students working toward diplomas, but can accommodate far more, he said.

The services are available to residents of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties who are eligible for WIA help. Eligible job seekers include laid-off workers, those with disabilities and displaced homemakers.

“The Valley has an inordinate amount of high school dropouts,” Thoming said, “A diploma opens more doors for them.”

It also opens better-paying doors for them. In 2012, the average earnings for full-time, year-round workers with a high school diploma or GED certificate was $41,248, while workers with less than a ninth-grade education had $26,679 average earnings, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Yet more than 1 in 5 adults in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, 22 percent of those 25 and older, failed to graduate high school.

“There are plenty of folks that need help,” Thoming said.

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