Helping Adults Earn High School Diplomas: KIPP Chicago's Remarkable Adult Education Journey

Posted by Peter Sorensen on April 16, 2024

The KIPP Charter School system is making waves, not just in the traditional classroom setting, but in the lives of adults seeking to further their education. Through its adult high school diploma program, KIPP Chicago is empowering its adult learners to seize economic opportunities, achieve financial stability, and unlock pathways to higher education.


older woman in regalia getting photo taken with younger woman.

Expanding horizons with Penn Foster programs

KIPP Chicago's innovative adult education initiative, powered by Penn Foster, is an opportunity for qualified applicants to earn their high school diploma. The course offerings include both Penn Foster's High School Diploma program as well as the High School Diploma + English Language Training.


With a capacity of up to 5 adult learners per cohort across KIPP's K-8 campuses, the program primarily caters to parents and close relatives of KIPP students, aiming to foster an enriching learning environment within their homes. Additionally, the initiative extends its reach to KIPP's K-8 alumni, ensuring a smooth transition for learners seeking to further their education journey.


Read more: The Benefits of Offering Career-Focused Courses in High School


Providing economic stability and mobility for adults

KIPP Chicago’s partnership with Penn Foster High School helps enhance the financial mobility of participants who seize this opportunity and graduate. Individuals with a high school diploma typically earn higher wages compared to those without that level of education with the average wage gap between the two groups being roughly $162 per week; almost $8,500 a year and $400,000 over a lifetime.


In addition to a high school diploma, KIPPS Chicago’s adult education program also provides practical English training for those who need it. Much like a high school diploma, proficient English skills offer significant financial advantages.


Read more: 3 Ways to Prepare High School Students for Jobs


Opening doors to higher education for program graduates

Earning a high school diploma or high school equivalent is an essential prerequisite for pursuing higher education which provides even more financial benefits including higher average pay, more career stability, and an increase in employability. One of the students who recently graduated from this program, Marlene, is planning on pursuing this path.


Celebrating success: Marlene Roldan’s journey

A shining example of the program's effectiveness is Marlene Roldan. Marlene’s goal of earning a high school diploma was driven by two factors: she wanted a more stable career and to further her education in either business or the medical field. Marlene has been working towards her high school diploma for years, and her goal has always been to earn it before her daughter graduated middle school. She met her goal this year and will be donning her cap and gown in celebration in May. Her advice to anyone who has stalled in the program, or in any life obstacle, is to refocus on what’s important and remember why you started in the first place – this will help you recenter your focus and continue until completion.


Throughout her journey, Marlene discovered a few helpful tricks to keep herself both motivated and focused. She noted that writing everything down, both in her academic and personal life, helped her remember due dates and important events. She also realized that earning a high school diploma is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and to help prevent burnout, it is okay to give yourself a couple of days to relax. However, she also mentioned that she always set the number of days she was going to take off ahead of time, that way, the scheduled break would not become an extended delay.


Marlene is a great example of what perseverance can do; however, she couldn’t do it alone. She mentioned that her greatest strength was her children, who were there for her every step of the way and motivated her to complete the program. She also noted that her Penn Foster Facilitator was a continual source of inspiration and extremely supportive throughout the Penn Foster experience.


Building momentum: 5 graduates and counting

With five graduates who have already completed the program, an additional four students on track to graduate this May, and 30 more working towards earning their diplomas, KIPP Chicago's adult education program is gaining momentum. Every one of these learners represents a transformed life, a story of resilience, and a testament to the power of accessible education.


As KIPP prepares for its first graduation ceremony to celebrate the academic achievements of its learners, we are reminded of the importance of education and the dedication required to achieve this milestone. To learn more about how Penn Foster’s educational programs make lifelong impacts on people like Marlene or to explore potential partnership opportunities for your social impact organization, visit our website or send us an email.