A new chapter: Career Online High School graduate breaks down barrier to reach milestone

Do you live in Pima County, AZ? You can get a diploma through the Library!

Yvette Moutran learned about Career Online High School (COHS) while searching for GED information. Her first thought? “It’s too good to be true!”

Now, a little over a year later, Yvette is one of the program’s first three graduates, and she couldn’t be happier.

When asked what it means to her she responds with an enthusiastic, “Wow!” Her bright eyes shining, she continues, “Getting my high school diploma is something I missed out on long ago. The Library has given me a second chance to be successful.”

Launched in October 2016, COHS is just one of the many ways Pima County Public Library is helping to remove barriers to success.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Arizona was one of only four states in 2015 where high school graduation rates had declined for the past three years, especially among low-income and minority students.

For those who lack diplomas, success can be far more difficult to achieve. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that high school graduates earn nearly $200,000 more over a lifetime than those without a diploma.

The Library’s program fills a unique niche by offering adults 22 years and older the opportunity to obtain an accredited high school diploma and career certificate in one of eight high-demand fields. Conducted entirely online, the program’s flexibility stood out to Yvette.

“It was such a blessing. I’m a wife and a mother. I work a full time job. The program was so easy to access at home. Plus, Library staff was amazing, offering encouragement and suggesting resources whenever I got stuck.”

The program is intended to take about 18 months to complete, but since it’s entirely self-paced, the student has the opportunity to shorten that timeline. In Yvette’s case, she graduated in just 9 months and received her career certificate in Office Management.

Currently she works as an interpreter for Transperfect Remote Interpreting, one of the world’s largest privately held translation services.

COHS, offered at no cost to the student, is designed to help qualifying adults unlock their potential. It provides a much-needed pathway for those wanting to make changes in their lives, but lacking the resources necessary to do so.

As an institution that is devoted to family and adult literacy, the Library’s commitment to workforce and economic development should come as no surprise.

Library Director Amber Mathewson says, “We are proud partners in the Cradle to Career community initiative, which aims to improve outcomes from kindergarten readiness to post-secondary education success and career attainment. Career Online High School not only provides an outlet for adults to obtain their diplomas, but to gain the skills necessary to become successful in the workforce.”

With COHS, the Library is playing a pivotal role in helping reverse the downward trend of high school graduates, but the benefits go beyond the numbers.

“People in this community are reaching milestones and accomplishing goals with the support of the Library. Whether they attend Homework Help, Job Help, or classes for entrepreneurs, we’re seeing customers learn and try new things to expand their knowledge. We’re proud to be part of their transformation,” says Ken Zambos, Program Manager for Workforce and Economic Development.

Talking to Yvette, it seems the feeling is mutual. “The journey has been an amazing experience and one that I’m incredibly grateful for.”

Reflecting on her experience Yvette says, “We all know the Library for the books we can check out, but they have so much more. They provide computer access, help with job searches, and space to do school work. They also off er tutoring and the staff and volunteers are always so helpful. It’s really a place where anyone of any age and any background can find something.”

We're grateful to #ThisIsTucson for the article they published about the Library's inaugural Career Online High School graduation! Be sure to head over to their website to read more about the graduates and this milestone event.