Fresh Start Dropout Retrieval Program Graduates May 2014

I recently had the distinct privilege of being one of the commencement speakers during a lively graduation ceremony in Polk County, Florida.  214 Penn Foster High School graduates were cheered on by over 2500 of their family and friends. As I stood on the stage waiting to congratulate the students as their names were called, I had a funny feeling come over me of somehow being "out of place." Then I realized " I was the only person in the receiving line wearing a traditional business suit.  All the other participants were life-long academic Administrators from the Polk County School District.  They had the traditional thick, robe-like cap and gown attire that faculty members typically wear at graduation ceremonies.

Then I had an epiphany " and it occurred to me that my attire "mismatch" was no mismatch at all. It was emblematic of the future of education: Private enterprise partnering with traditional school systems to combine the very best "blend" of online learning with in person instruction and support.  Without the partnership between Penn Foster and Polk County Schools, these students may never have graduated high school. Statistically that leads to unemployment, low wages, and often prison.  Instead, through the Fresh Start program, they have completed an important first step on their lifelong education journey.  The diploma they received " along with the self-confidence that they gained " can never be taken away.  It was a public/private partnership that enabled their success.

The graduating students are completing the Fresh Start Dropout Retrieval Program, which uses Penn Foster's accredited high school curriculum to give students at-risk of dropping out, or those who have already left the system, the opportunity to earn their high school diploma. Through a blend of classroom learning and online coursework, students have the flexibility to complete their high school degree at their own pace. The majority of the graduates are non-traditional students, with ages ranging from 17-21. For many of these students, prioritizing their education was not easy. One of the students from this year's class had to take three buses to travel to school!

Penn Foster is proud of the commitment this year's graduating class has given to their education and to be able to experience this classic "right-of-passage" high school graduation ceremony.

Read more about the partnership between Penn Foster and the Polk County school district here.