On the heels of high school graduation, Sheena Miller, 18, returned to a classroom that changed her life.
It doesn’t have traditional desks, just computers. The walls are covered from floor to ceiling in multicolored proofs of completed coursework. A nearby hallway is decorated with posters displaying inspirational quotations.
Miller chose to enroll in this year-round online school, Compass Academy, when bullies at a previous district made learning near impossible.
She fell behind in coursework because of stress and anxiety. An alternative education through Sandusky Schools, she decided, was the only way to catch up and successfully achieve her high school diploma.
“I actually started looking forward to coming to school when I enrolled here,” Miller said. “Each teacher puts their heart and soul into everything they do to make you feel comfortable.”
Just a few weeks ago, after months of hard work, Miller graduated with a Sandusky High School diploma.
She plans to enroll in EHOVE Career Center’s culinary arts program this fall and possibly cosmetology school. She credits the future successes to Compass Academy.
For the first time, Miller gave her proud mother, Beverly Goshe, a tour of her classroom. She was nearly moved to tears.
“This place, and these teachers, they really make dreams come true,” Goshe said.
In just its first year, Compass Academy has helped more than two dozen students achieve similar success stories. The web-based, work-at-your-own pace school blends online time and classroom time for area students.
About 100 students enrolled in this past school year, with 25 graduating with a high school diploma.
At Compass Academy, students complete work independently. They don’t sit through a day of lectures or activities, but instead complete assignments on a computer, only asking teachers for assistance when needed. They can choose to complete work entirely from home or attend one of two two-hour sessions, either in the morning or the afternoon.
The academy’s two classrooms are on the bottom floor of the former Adams Junior High School building on Columbus Avenue. It operates through a partnership between Sandusky Schools and North Point Educational Service Center.
“I like to tell our students that we’re just a hallway of Sandusky High School,” director Sherry Smith said. “You earn the same diploma but just use different means to achieve it.”
The alternative school targets students ages 14 to 22 who will benefit from the flexibility and independence of an alternative education. This includes students who are teen parents, credit deficient, drop-outs or in trouble with the law, as well as students who are working, bullied, have special needs or at-home responsibilities.
For Rashaad Smith, 16, his limitation was simply worrying about the “stupid stuff,” he said. Distractions kept him from succeeding in tougher classes like biology and he quickly fell behind. After half a year at Compass Academy, however, he’s caught up on coursework and developed some study skills he hopes to take back to a traditional classroom next fall.
“I worried about everything but school,” Rashaad said. “I really needed to get away from that for a little bit. Everyone here was great. You come in and get your work done without any drama.”
Any student who attends Compass Academy open enrolls into Sandusky Schools. The district receives up to $5,700 in state funding for each student, but the final amount varies depending on enrollment time. Funds are deducted form a student’s home district.
While attending the academy, students can earn a “career-based opportunity” class credit for working, crafting resumes and volunteering. They can also participate in sports and other extracurricular activities at Sandusky High School.
Students will continue to attend Compass Academy all summer long to catch up on credits and take advantage of one-on-one mentoring.
In the upcoming school year, leaders hope to continue to grow the academy and expand its offerings to include more mentoring programs, partnerships with area businesses, volunteering opportunities and a spring job fair.
“We’re very proud of what we accomplished this year,” Sherry said. “We’re providing a unique opportunity for local students and we’re very impressed with all they’ve done.”
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