Center offers a second chance



Life Skills Center focuses on school dropouts or those in danger of dropping out.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- When Ashlee Jamison of Hilton Avenue learned she wouldn't be able to finish her education at Woodrow Wilson High School, she began looking around for an alternative.
Earning a general educational development (GED) certificate wasn't an option she wanted to consider, figuring that a high school diploma would be required to get a job or continue with some sort of post-secondary education or training.
Jamison, 20, was 16 and in the ninth grade when she said behavioral issues got her thrown out of Wilson and sent to an alternative education program at Choffin Career & amp; Technical Center.
She planned to return to Wilson after completing the alternative school session but learned the school district wouldn't allow her to do so, she said. It was about that time she heard about Life Skills Center of Youngstown, a charter school that contends it gives a second chance to students who otherwise wouldn't get a diploma.
Some friends mentioned the program to her, and she saw a television commercial about Life Skills and decided to investigate.
She enrolled as a freshman in July 2003, and, earlier this month, joined 26 other Life Skills students as graduating seniors at a ceremony held in Kilcawley Center at Youngstown State University.
She's had a job at a McDonald's Restaurant in New Springfield for about 18 months and was able to keep her position while attending Life Skills' flexible class schedule.
Looking forward
Jamison said she wants to pursue training for a career and is thinking about becoming an Emergency Medical Technician.
She has a 2-year-old daughter now and said that makes her decision to get a high school diploma all the more important.
"I had to step my game up," she said, noting that she got mostly A's and B's on her Life Skills progress reports.
She said she liked the Life Skills program that required her to be in class only four hours a day but also required her to do a lot of work on her own.
"They work with you. The schedule really helped me out," she said.
Jamison has done quite well, said Ruth Ann Smith, administrator of Life Skills Center of Youngstown, adding that many of Life Skills' students have had to overcome some form of adversity to continue their high school education.
The school runs three daily class sessions, from 8 to 11 a.m., 11 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. and 2:15 to 5:30 p.m. to accommodate students who work, have family obligations or, for some other reason, can't meet a regular classroom schedule, she said. In addition to three hours of classroom time, students must spend one hour a day working on employment, vocational training, volunteering and counseling.
Life Skills operates 18 centers across Ohio and graduated 500 seniors this month.
The program focuses on the educational recovery of high school dropouts and those in danger of dropping out. It offers a year-round curriculum combining academics, life skills preparation and workplace training.
How this works
All students are required to participate in work-related programs including jobs, vocational training and community volunteer activities.
There are no tuition charges. The state educational subsidy follows the students into charter schools from their home districts.
Life Skills first opened in Akron, Cleveland and Youngstown in 1999.
Life Skills Center of Youngstown had 357 students a year ago but enrollment this year dropped to 265, Smith said, noting that some of the students opted to enroll in a new alternative charter school, the Mahoning Valley Opportunity Center, which opened this year in conjunction with the city school district.
Youngstown students in that new school can participate in city school sports and a number of Life Skills students wanted that opportunity, Smith said.
gwin@vindy.com

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