Yukon’s alternative education program helps teens move forward

Aisha Romines will be among the Yukon students who will walk across the stage to receive their diplomas on May 22.

And she’s doing it a year early.

The fact that she is doing it after having a child nine months ago, is married and has a job is amazing.

Romines, 17, found out that she was pregnant during her sophomore year at Yukon High School.

The A-B student was stunned and needed to find a way to complete her education quickly. She turned to the teachers and staff at Yukon’s Alternative Learning Experience, also known as YALE.

“I was a pretty good student and all my teachers liked me. In fact, one of my teachers was disappointed when she found out I was pregnant because she though I wouldn’t succeed. It’s not very common to succeed,” Romines said.

But she was driven to complete her high school education. She wanted a diploma, not a GED Certificate.

“I had a lot of emotions going on. I was scared, I was happy, I was upset with myself. My grandmother didn’t graduate. I wanted to be one who graduated. I wanted to be the one to go to college and succeed in life,” she said.

But she was concerned about attending school at YALE.

“I thought the alternative school was for the bad kids. I came and it was not at all what I expected,” she said.

The alternative school program is designed to help students who, like Romines, have blips that impact their education, said Principal Jody Pendleton.

There are students who are pregnant or who have children, there are students who are trying to make up credits and there are students who have had attendance problems.

The majority of the students fall in one of the two latter categories, she said.

Romines is an exception.

She already was in advance placement classes at the high school and was on her way to being a successful student.

“She had a blip. She got pregnant,” Pendleton said.

Romines completed her sophomore year at the high school and started at YALE in August. She attended until giving birth. She continued her classwork at home, through a computer program and classwork.

“She was able to speed up her education and completed her requirements in March, more than a year ahead of schedule,” said Pendleton. “Our curriculum is set up for mastery, so students can work ahead.”

YALE’s students are able to work at their own pace with a staff that works with just a few students.

“This is for students who are at risk of not graduating. … At the high school, she would have been out for a month and a half. Here, we were able to keep her moving forward,” Pendleton said.

But Romines is an unusual member of the program. Most students are working to recover credits.

“She needed to get done. She’s married. She has a baby and she has a job. She came in and did all the work. She doubled up on her assignments. She worked from home and she came in for longer hours. She was able to work ahead,” Pendleton said.

Pendleton said the program has 66 spots with a waiting list of 10 to 20 students.

When one student completes the program, another is brought in.

Thus far, 109 students have gone through the program this year. Of those, 73 will be part of the Class of 2018.

The success rate is more than 97 percent and is considered one of the top programs in the state, she said.

“We offer a sense of belonging and success. We have smaller class sizes and we form relationships. … When they (students) feel that confidence and support, the attendance problems go by the way-side,” Pendleton said.

Most students complete the program with 100 percent attendance.

Romines said she doesn’t know if she would have been able to graduate from high school without the program.

Now, her plans are to attend Oklahoma City Community College to study to become a teacher.

“Every single teacher I’ve had has impacted me by being there for me,” she said. “This program is so supportive.”

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