"I got a diploma! It was my greatest achievement." " Nina, IOT and Penn Foster high school graduate

"I'm in college now. I never thought I'd be in college so soon, and I feel pretty confident about my future now." " Willie, IOT and Penn Foster high school graduate

"I'm not stopping. I'm definitely not going to stop. I'm looking at my options for my associate's. I'm definitely interested in staying with IOT, and they have an HR program that I'm interested in." " George, IOT and Penn Foster high school graduate

The true value of partnership success is defined by the triumphant journeys of students who went from lost high school dropouts to confident high school graduates. Each individual has their own story of how and why they left school, but what bonds these individuals together is their desire to create a better life and the belief that a high school diploma is a much-needed foundation.

Penn Foster high school graduates recall the years of working in retail and fast food industries. Having a baby at 16 and enduring family challenges were all part of the past identities of these former high school dropouts. Years later though, not only were these young adults left without a high school diploma, they felt lost and discouraged about their futures.

Deciding to go back to high school to earn a diploma can be terrifying, but high school graduates who completed the Institute of Technology (IOT) and Penn Foster high school diploma program were able to overcome their initial fears. They found an attainable alternative and received help from school professionals. Supported by passionate staff and faculty, students enrolled in the program enthusiastically learn, stay motivated, and accomplish their goal of completing high school.

Partnership & Program Establishment

The Institute of Technology adopted the Penn Foster program in January 2014 as a solution for equipping students with a high school diploma. Once students earned their diploma by completing the program, they had the appropriate prerequisite, and elevated confidence, to continue on to higher education and create future goals. The Penn Foster program served as a truly academic and trustworthy alternative to the GED, explains Denise Doyle, IOT and Penn Foster Program Administrator. Students are tested on their actual knowledge and evaluated on their determination to prep for college.

How does it work at the IOT campus? Students are required to be in class six hours per week and work in a separate classroom with an instructor. An instructor engages with individual students on their written essays or mathematics in a tutoring capacity with a powerful one-to-one instructional approach. Because of how the program is designed, Denise can also go online to track and evaluate student progress. "We try to understand they are adults with lives," says Denise, which is why if personal circumstances arise, IOT can make accommodations as long as progress is being made.

College Preparation

The Penn Foster program doesn't just provide a piece of paper representing high school completion, it prepares students for college. Denise shares how the program sharpens computer and thinking skills. It also serves as a refresher for basic skills in math and writing. Heather Hixon, the Penn Foster Program Facilitator at IOT, adds that students gather information from various resources to answer test questions and learn the research skills necessary for college. By learning how to use the Internet, navigate search engines like Google, and review different materials such as books and study guides, a student can make a smoother transition into a college environment.

Subsequently, students who were initially denied can eventually enroll in IOT (or another college), which also increases enrollment for the institution. Most students do realize a diploma isn't enough for today's society and feel encouraged to get a higher degree at an excellent school like IOT, emphasizing its mutual benefit.

IOT also finds Penn Foster high school graduates to be exceptional IOT students. "They are the students we want because they're the motivated ones," says Denise. "They're the ones who are here every day doing their work, so we find they make excellent students."

Program Advantages

Along with preparing students for college, Penn Foster further proves to be a flexible and strong academic asset with its self-directed and self-paced design. Students can work at an independent speed without the pressure of taking a structured, timed test. "They're able to sit in the comfort of their own home and take these tests, or they're able to sit in a classroom with other students whom they're comfortable with," explains Heather.

George, a Penn Foster high school graduate, found success with the program because of this independent nature. The program is tailored to a student's timely needs and individual style of learning, from individual online learning to a traditional classroom environment.

The program also has a checklist design, which enables a student to accomplish small victories along the way while fostering confidence. With each passing test and course taken, a student experiences mini successes and feels even more motivation to move forward. In the words of Heather, students can "see the light at the end of the tunnel," especially given that this is a time in their lives when they feel most motivated.

The more motivated a student is, the more engaged they are, and the faster they work toward graduation, adds Denise. Students are in competition with themselves and see the graduation date not only as a deadline, but as a motivator. Within the Penn Foster and IOT environment, graduation announcements are exciting, and students champion one another by forming supportive cohorts. It's easy to see how this partnership created successful results.

IOT Family & Student Success

The helpful staff and intimate environment are influential educational elements that encourage Penn Foster graduates to stay within the IOT family after graduation. For example, students want to continue learning in the same type of comfortable space. Unlike sitting in a traditional college classroom surrounded by hundreds of other students led by a teacher's assistant, IOT students know one another. Instructors are hands-on experts in the field with extensive experience and are masters in education.

IOT students Nina, Willie and Monica have all advanced with IOT after earning their diploma. Nina, currently a culinary student, left 10 years in retail to courageously embark on doing something she loves. Willie studies criminology and is expected to graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree in July 2015. Monica, who's in human resources, feels successful, as well as eager on her high school graduation day to move on to achieve goals that she's set for herself.

Establishing a high school completion program changes lives and turns hopelessness and fear into self-confidence and ambition to do more and to be more, academically and professionally. High school dropouts turned high school graduates turned college students with dreams and aspirations start to view themselves in different ways. Students believe in themselves and feel happy, accomplished and successful. And student success is what makes educational partnerships within academic communities so rewarding.

Get to know the Penn Foster and IOT family even more intimately by watching the Penn Foster graduation videos of inspiration and success. When you can envision what a partnership and high school diploma program can do for your school and students, only then can we as a connected academic community begin to change the future of education.
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