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Not easy but worth it

Learning center offers free classes for high school diploma

Staff writer

The store-front school has been a fixture on Hillsboro’s Main Street for more than 10 years but what exactly goes on there?

Marion County Learning Center at 107 S. Main serves county residents who want to return to school and earn a high school diploma.

These non-traditional adult students are those who quit high school for various reasons — pregnancy, low grades, problems at home, or just a disinterest in going to school.

Unfortunately when these students apply for higher paying jobs, they find few open doors and opportunity for making a living.

They soon realize that most employers are wanting employees with a minimum of a high school diploma.

Earning a diploma through the learning center is one way to get ahead.

“This isn’t an easy way out for students,” said Julie Harber, the center director for the past eight years.

Instead of studying for and taking proficiency tests as is the process for a GED (General Educational Development), students are required to pass general courses and electives more typical of traditional high schools.

“They have to pass four English classes instead of a proficiency test,” Harber said. “It’s not an easy task. Self-discipline is paramount.”

The ages of students range from teens to those in their 50s. Most students have had some high school classes. Transcripts from the last high schools attended are retrieved.

“The transcripts are reviewed by high school counselors from schools in the county to determine what’s needed for graduation,” Harber said.

These days, if students have Internet access at home, they can work at home which saves fuel driving to and from the center and is especially helpful for students with children.

Supported by ESSDACK (Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas), the Marion County center is one of 14 centers in the region that receives assistance from the organization.

Just like public schools, the learning center receives funds based on FTE (full-time equivalent) enrollment on Sept. 22. Full-time is six hours or more of course work.

There are 30 to 35 FTE students enrolled at the center during a typical semester, Harber said.

“Students can set their own pace and schedule to fit their lifestyles,” she said, which is attractive for those who work or have families.

Letters are sent to students, encouraging them to enroll, who have attended in the past but have not finished their course work to earn a diploma. The current database has more than 200 names.

When the course work is completed for a diploma, a regular high school diploma will be issued from the high school in the district in which the student lives.

There is no cost to adult students.

Classes also are offered to high school students for credit recovery, typically during the summer. These classes are for current high school students who have failed a class and need the class to graduate. There is a cost for that program if a student is enrolled in a school district.

The center follows the USD 410 calendar, beginning in August and concluding in May.

Assisting Harber are two para-educators — Byron McCarty and Katie Magathan.

Home-school students

In addition to these adults, Harber said the center assists home school families with resources.

As a Spanish teacher, Harber offers Spanish classes to home-schooled students as part of their curriculum.

Art lessons are available online to students with art work and photography being posted on a safe Web site, Harber said.

Open to the public

The community is welcome to use the center’s computers for Internet searches or patrons can bring their own laptop with wireless capabilities.

The center is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Anyone interested in enrolling for the fall semester can come to the center during regular hours or call, (620) 947-3210.

Last modified Aug. 20, 2008

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