Allison Hinds decided in her senior year that she and high school didn't mix.
A teenager with attention deficit disorder and test anxiety, she found herself with a full schedule and got overwhelmed. Instead of pushing through, she dropped out of Sylvania Southview High School after her junior year. She had other forays into education, such as a stint at Phoenix Academy, a dropout recovery school with a mostly online curriculum, but she decided six hours a day in front of a computer wasn't for her, either.
Her prospects weren't bright.
"There was a point in my life where everything came crashing down," she said.
Miss Hinds, at 19, had a breakdown. This is the point where many young people give up.
But these days, she has a job and her own place and is back on track at school, thanks to a new program at Owens Community College for high school dropouts.
Ms. Hinds said she thinks she's found a second chance in a school setting geared toward her. "Here," she said, "they actually care."
The program is a collaboration among Owens, Toledo Public Schools, and the Gateway to College National Network. Students between age 16 and 20 who dropped out of high school or are likely to drop out earn a TPS diploma while also earning college credit, as they're enrolled at both TPS and Owens. About 50 students, the first year's group, had orientation Monday in the new initiative.
Owens received a $325,000 start-up grant for the program, which will serve up to 150 students during the next three years. Students attend at no charge at Owens' Learning Center at The Source in downtown Toledo. They receive books, lunch, and transportation. During the first term, they take reading, writing, math, and college skills courses in small groups.
But more than the programming, the initiative gives students with fragile educational drives support more traditional paths might not offer.
There's the formal help, with mentors, advisors, and coaches. If you forget a pen, the Learning Center's director, Willie Williams, told students, staff will get you one. If you need bus tokens, they've got them.
"Ask for it," he said, "and we will find ways to support you."
All the students on Monday said they wanted to succeed, but Gateway lead resource officer James Jackson, Sr., challenged them on their drive, a legitimate question because most had given up on school at some point. They'll need to want to graduate more than anything they've ever wanted, even with the staff's help.
"We want it for you guys," Mr. Jackson said, "but we can't give it to you."
Although the Gateway team acknowledged that not everyone in this first group will be successful, the group has already showed a level of drive to get back on track that many other dropouts haven't.
About 180 people applied for the 50 spots; those who got in wrote essays, took entrance tests, and were interviewed by Owens staff.
Trey McBrayer, 17, found himself stuck in neutral at Start High School. Laziness, he admitted, led to little school work. He stopped gaining credits and eventually left for Phoenix Academy.
"School just didn't matter to me then," he said.
But when young McBrayer heard about the Gateway initiative, something clicked. He saw a second chance. Realizing how hard it would be to find a good job without a high school diploma, let alone a college degree, he decided to take the opportunity.
"At some time, you gotta grow up," he said.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6086.