Local program brings high school dropouts back to the classroom

OSCEOLA, AR (KAIT) - Almost 60 percent of Osceola High School students graduated in 2010. Last year, that number jumped to 82 percent.

Superintendent Michael Cox attributes part of this success to the school's Choices Program.

"They weren't going to finish high school unless we did something," Cox said.

The Choices Program is an alternative school that brings high school dropouts back to the classroom to show them there are other options. Students learn to make better choices and have more one-on-one time with their teachers.

Cox said the program is all about second chances.

"I started off high school with all A's and B's," student Ronisha Carbin said.

However, Carbin said her grades started to change.

"I was pregnant so that's why my grades kept falling and falling," Carbin said.

Carbin missed a lot of school days to have her two children, which made her fall further and further behind. Her teachers then enrolled her in the Choices Program to get her back on track.

"I had ten classes on my list, and I finished 16 in all," Carbin said.

Carbin is now back to those A's and B's.

"If I wasn't in the program, I would be staying in trouble, not coming to school, so that's why I really needed to be here," Carbin said.

However, her current schedule is not easy.

"I come to school, do my work, tests or whatever, then leave school at 2:15, pick up my kids from day care," Carbin said. "Then I leave for work around 3:30."

Carbin works full time every day from 4 p.m. to at least 12:30 a.m., leaving little time for her studies.

"It's frustrating, and sometimes it can be stressful, but I just try to work through it and focus on what I'm doing it for, my kids," Carbin said.

Carbin is not the only success story to come from this program. It also helped student John Black get back on track to get his diploma. 

"I got expelled my first semester my senior year, and I probably wouldn't have caught up, but they helped me catch up to where I'm supposed to be," Black said.

Both Black and Carbin said the Choices Program teaches more than textbook material.

"I learned discipline and self control. They taught me how to take my time, think before I act, how to make good choices," Black said. 

"It doesn't matter what you're going through, they'll help you, they'll talk you through it, they'll try to work with you," Carbin said.

Superintendent Cox said that is the mission of this program.

"Our job is to educate all students and that means 100 percent of them. That's our goal," Cox said.

Carbin and Black will graduate with the rest of the Osceola High School seniors in May. They both now have plans to go to college in August. 

The state-funded program enrolls about 18 students each year. Last year, Cox said five students in this program graduated and are currently employed.

Cox said the other part of the program is used for out-of-school suspensions. Instead of sending students home, they go to the Choices Program.

Cox said this is a better alternative to regular suspension. These students are educated throughout the school day, but are required to stay until 4:30 p.m. as punishment.

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