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Pride High — two decades of successes: ‘It’s not easy, but it’s worth it’

Posted: Monday, Jan 14th, 2013

Pride High instructor Wayne Fenner talks with Jackie Greschke before she graduated from the alternative school during a Friday afternoon ceremony. PHOTO BY ROGER LARSEN/PLAINSMAN

HURON— When Jackie Greschke became the latest student to earn a diploma and win the admiration of friends and family members in the 20-year-old history of inspirational success stories at Pride High, she had something to share.

Like many of the 187 others before her have done, she tearfully stood, turned to face her fellow students — also working hard every day for the same prize, and opened up her heart.

“Towards the end of it I had just a couple credits left and I really wanted to get it done,” she said.

“And you all can do it, too. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”

They were only a few words, but they spoke volumes. It’s a story parents, teachers, administrators and others in the lives of young people try to drive home to them as well. Without a high school diploma, they really handicap their future.

Working hard now will pay them dividends down the road.

Up until a couple years ago when legislators changed the law, students could drop out of school at 16. They now must stay until the age of 18.

Before the change, some kids struggling in school would shrug their shoulders, ask themselves what’s the point and decide to drop out and naively look for a decent job instead.

“They would go out into the community, or maybe leave the community, and discover nobody really wants to hire me,” Pride High instructor Wayne Fenner said at Greschke’s Friday graduation ceremony.

“With very few exceptions that happened to be the case,” he said. “And most of the students who had dropped out came and dropped in with us with a completely different attitude about the value of education.”

In the early days of Pride High, students attended full time. But today almost all of them have at least one class across the street at Huron High School. Some have only one Pride High class and the rest are at the high school.

When Pride High graduates are handed their diplomas they have earned academic credentials. But they also have learned what it takes to keep employers happy.

“We also set the school up so that they will also be work-ready,” Fenner said.

Employers have complained that a number of their young employees don’t appreciate the fact that they have to be on time, be there every day, be prepared to learn new things and solve problems and get along with other people.

“And so what we have done from the very beginning is to make the school as much like a job as we possibly can,” Fenner said.

To enter Pride High, one has to be referred, fill out an application and appear for an interview.

“For some students, it’s the first time they’ve been interviewed for anything,” he said.

If they’re “hired” they start out with 50 points. They gain points as they progress through each subject matter and meet expectations. But they lose them when they’re late, leave early, waste time or fail to show up,

“Being absent and not calling in – that’s a big one,” Fenner said. “You have to be on time and you have to work when you’re here.”

Losing all their points also means losing their place at the table and they’re terminated. They can reapply, but they also must go through the application and interview process again to be reminded what they must do better in order to succeed.

Pride High sets the bar higher on the matter of grades. Nothing below a “C” is acceptable.

“Just like a job,” Fenner said. “If you can’t do satisfactory work or bring your work up to satisfactory level, you won’t stay on the payroll.”

There’s also a no-homework policy. That gives the students the opportunity to have a part-time job or spend free hours with their family and friends.

“Most people go to work and work, and when they leave work, they leave work,” he said.

Instructor Jonna Reid said Pride High students have to learn how to overcome obstacles to reach graduation day, to have their own names added to the growing list of graduates on a banner on a classroom wall, and to have their photos displayed high overhead with others who have celebrated their own graduation days.

Smiling faces are there as a daily reminder.

“It’s not easy. But it’s worth it.”

For the complete article see the 01-12-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 01-12-2013 paper.

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