David Beers dropped out of Avery High School in the fall of 2011 to work with his father doing roofing and working odd jobs when roofing jobs were scarce. David always looked for stable employment but not having his high school diploma limited his options. Knowing he needed his diploma to move forward, he looked at several programs and online GED classes, but they didn’t fit his finances or learning style.
In January 2013, David received a Facebook message from WIA Career Coach, Allen Cook, explaining the Blue Ridge Academy, a partnership of Avery County Schools, High Country Workforce Development Board, Mayland Community College, and local employers that provides a second chance for youth who have dropped out of school to get their high school diploma.
A few more Facebook messages and phone calls later, David enrolled in the Academy. He discovered he needed three classes to get his diploma but also needed work to stay financially afloat. Allen set up a paid work experience for David with the Mayland Community College maintenance crew. The maintenance staff personally helped keep him motivated about the need to finish his classes and the importance of having a high school diploma in the workplace. The Academy’s teachers created a customized education plan, where if David worked diligently he could finish in time for June graduation. David would attend class three days per week and work two days per week.
As graduation neared, David lacked one class and had to put his paid work experience on hold in order to focus on completing his final credit with teacher, Susan Gunderson. With one day to spare, David finished his class and was able to graduate.
Thirteen students received their high school diploma on Thursday, June 6, 2013 at Blue Ridge Academy’s first graduation ceremonies.
“The Academy fit my schedule, and WIA gave me the support necessary to get my diploma,” stated David, who is currently being assisted by WIA with HVAC and welding classes.
The Blue Ridge Academy staffing is funded in part by the High Country Workforce Development Board. The Academy uses a non-traditional approach to education in a safe, relaxed environment with flexibility towards learning styles. Eligible students are co-enrolled in the WIA youth program and can receive incentives, paid work experiences (which can be used as a high school credit), career exploration, and intensive services.
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