First students graduate from Rockford Public Library’s online high school

Staff Report

ROCKFORD – The Rockford Public Library, on Saturday, Feb. 8, will celebrate the
first graduates of its new Career Online High School (COHS) program.

The ceremony will be at RPL’s Nordlof Center, 118 N. Main St.,  downtown. It will also serve as a fundraiser for the program’s expansion, which is being led by a generous donation and support from Heather and Peter Provenzano in the name of their new boutique hotel, Hotel Kate.

RPL’s Career Online High School is a nationally accredited program allowing adult students to earn a high school diploma—not a GED—while gaining career skills in one of ten employment fields across a wide spectrum, from home care professional and office management to homeland security.

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Because it’s 100% online, with online tutoring and additional in-person support at the Library, RPL’s COHS accepts credits earned by students in high school and previous GED attempts, making it a preferred path to earn a diploma for busy adults with families.

“I was able to get online and do my classwork at night, after work, while my kids were asleep,”RPL COHS graduate Renika Wilson said.

Peter Provenzano added: “We see RPL’s Career Online High School program as an exciting low-friction way for adult-learners, particularly working single mothers, to attain their high school diploma.”

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Provenzano said even with quality community programs in place to allow for adult learners to complete high school, Rockford is experiencing an exponential shortfall.

“Today, 12,269 of Rockford’s citizens, ages of 25-65 have not completed high school,” he said. “With graduation rates of around only 66%, and alternative completion programs producing approximately 300 graduates a year, Rockford welcomes a balance of nearly 300 adults without high school diplomas or equivalents thereof, each year. We think if we appropriately grow the RPL’s Career Online High School program, we’ll be able to cut that number in half, taking a big bite out of the annual deficit we are accumulating.”

The fundraising effort aims to finance 50 scholarships to RPL’s Career Online High School in 2020 and increase to 150 in 2021 & 2022. Fifteen of the 50 scholarships have already been funded. 

“I’m pleased to be a part of this initiative. I deeply believe in the importance of fostering a culture of learning and increased opportunity within our community”, COHOS donor LoRayne Logan said.

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“The potential for lifting a segment of our population who may otherwise be left behind aligns closely with our company values.”

In addition to raising funds through private donors, RPL hopes to raise awareness and recruit volunteers to serve as in-person support for the RPL COHS students.

“RPL’s Career Online High School offers students many features and benefits that work to ensure their success,” explains RPL Career Online High School Director Leon
Smith said. “But having an added layer of support in the form of a live person often makes all the difference.”

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