Reporting Dana Kozlov
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Traditional classrooms didn’t work for them, but hundreds of high school dropouts are now getting their diplomas a new way – on their terms.
CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov takes a look at the new program at a Chicago charter school.
Robert Bell didn’t finish high school. He stopped going when his mom got sick. This is his second chance.
Without the Youth Connection Charter School program giving him that second chance, Bell said “I wouldn’t actually do anything. I would be home watching TV right about now.”
The 20-year-old South Side resident is one of 171 students in the YCCS program, which combines traditional classroom learning with a flexible online curriculum.
The goal is to help at-risk adults obtain their high school diploma on a schedule that works for them.
“A lot of the students explained to me that they like the fact that it’s individualized learning. Each one of our classes are customized to meet their graduation requirements,” YCCS Head of School Early King said.
King said the three-year-old program is really the only one of its kind in the country.
So far, it’s working; 61 of 65 students graduated the first year of the program, and 121 of 127 students got their diploma the second year.
“We have students drop out of three or four other schools and come here and succeed, and I think that’s pretty extraordinary to see that,” King said.
Bell said the school has empowered him.
That’s why Illinois Policy Institute vice president of policy Ted Dabrowski said there needs to be more blended classrooms like this one.
“What’s great about Chicago is that, over the last 10, 15, 20 years, it has actually been an innovator. But, I think as a state, we’ve been less innovative than other states,” Dabrowski said.
There are other graduation incentives, too. If students make it through the first 30 days without being absent or late, they get to keep their laptops.
Also, for every A or B a student earns, they get money toward a college scholarship after they graduate.
Bell should graduate this summer. He said he wants to be a nurse.