Headline News
New innovative high school program graduates students
From The Morning Sun
Article by Mark Ranzenberger

A total of 10 students earned their high school diplomas through the new Oasis/WAY blended learning program in Mt. Pleasant Public Schools this year, according to school officials.

Another 38 students earned GEDs after attending the hybrid classroom/online program, said Superintendent Mike Pung.

The students who graduated came in with grade-point averages ranging from 1.2 to 2.77 on the traditional 4-point scale, said Stacie Zeien, who leads the school. When they graduated, the grades they earned in the non-traditional school averaged 3.53.

"I'm really proud of what's happening here," said team leader Karla Thayer.

WAY, which stands for Widening Advancements for Youth, is run by a Belleville-based nonprofit organization. Students have computer access 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to work with teachers and mentors.

They set their own pace, and Zeien said for some students, that's fairly slow. But, she said, many students have other, major commitments in their lives besides school.

Nearly a quarter are parents. More than a third are working, sometimes more than one job. Nearly half are homeless or living in temporary settings.

"Our students are highly mobile," Thayer said. Some change schools several times in a year, something that disrupts progress.

"We're talking about students who face multiple barriers," Zeien said.

"Do they see an end to what they're doing?" asked school board member Rosa Johnson.

"Sometimes it's a motivator," Thayer said. Others gain enough confidence to take the GED high school equivalency test.

Oasis/WAY is working to improve its relationships with mid-Michigan service agencies, including probation departments, Listening Ear and the Department of Human Services. Zeien said the school had served a total of 127 students during the 2012-13 school year, and currently had 85 students enrolled.

"For the WAY students, this is not the end of the year," she said. Instruction would continue through the summer.