It’s Never Too Late to Learn

It’s never too late to get your high school diploma, and the San Francisco Public Library is making it more accessible than ever before. FUSE Fellow Alum, Tim Lucas, worked with the Public Library to help launch their Career Online High School.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently published this great piece on the Library’s program:

S.F. library high school program gives students a 2nd chance

From: San Francisco Chronicle 
November 29, 2015

Slowly, the man with the law degree translated the coursework needed for his high school diploma.

“Bogus,” “bloom” and “array” — words in Hassan Basbassi’s online lesson that he transcribed from English to French to Arabic until the letters gained clarity.

This fall, Basbassi, 42, enrolled in the San Francisco Public Library’s online high school program, and he expects to earn his diploma, for a second time, within 18 months.

In Marrakesh, Morocco, Basbassi graduated in the top of his class at Cadi Ayyad University. Only 5 percent of students survive the first year of law school, his friends had warned him. “So why not be part of that 5 percent?” he responded. And he was. But when Basbassi immigrated to the United States in 2003, his diplomas became meaningless. He worked as a gas station attendant, then as a security guard at a Financial District bank.

“I might go to law school again after getting my high school diploma,” Basbassi said, his head bent over an assignment. “I used to say, ‘If I could learn to speak English, I could become president of this country.’ You have to have big dreams.”

The library has funded 100 Career Online High School scholarships — worth about $1,100 each — for students without diplomas. The students pay nothing. More than 94,000 adult San Francisco residents, or 13.7 percent of the city, have not graduated high school, according to U.S. census data.

The program includes different sections, like English, social studies and science, and can be completed online at home or at the library.

Each year, the program will fund 50 more students, until 200 spots are available in 2018. Seventy spots are still available for the 2015-2016 term, which ends next June. Graduates earn an actual high school diploma — not a GED — and a career certificate in one of eight fields, like security or retail.

Interested students, age 19 and above, are required to take a self-assessment survey, a prerequisite course, complete an interview with a library staff member and pass a 30-day probation period before being enrolled. The rigorous steps are to ensure pupils are committed to the program.

“It’s one thing to say you want to do this and another thing to show up every day for weeks and actually do it,” said Tim Lucas, senior adviser for strategic initiatives at the library. “People who drop out of high school often have this stigma of failure. We want to help people feel confident and supported, like they are capable of learning and doing this, from the start.”

Once enrolled, each student is paired with an academic coach, whom they connect with once a week electronically. The high school teachers are certified, and most are based in Florida.

“This program has everything you would have in a live-school but tailored toward someone who has a day job or children,” said Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president at Gale, the company that created the program. “It’s not simply a vocational program. We are really trying to support and help someone who fell through the cracks and give them a second chance at education.”

A high school education has become a requirement for most jobs, city librarian Luis Herrera said. Without one, an applicant might struggle to find a position.

“It goes without saying that education is a key to success,” he said. “Your chances for success in a fruitful and productive career lifestyle is going to be challenged without a diploma. You have to have it. For individuals seeking a second chance, this is a great opportunity to do that.”

On a blustery November day, Basbassi pulled a thick pad of paper and a pen out of his backpack and booted up an iMac at the Bridge, a literacy and learning center in the Main Library. He was nearing the end of his first unit, Homeland Security, and English was up next.

“What is infrared lighting? What are the types of security personnel?” He clicked through the online quiz, scoring 100 percent. His face cracked open into a smile.

“This is so good for me,” Basbassi said. “In Morocco, if you don’t go to school right away, you are done. But here? If you’re 60 and you want to study, it’s OK. What an amazing opportunity.”

Original article posted by San Francisco Chronicle: