Meeting Non-Traditional Needs

Savannah WaszczukAccess Launch, District Profiles

The administrative team at Marshfield High School values Launch courses for a variety of reasons, including the way they can help non-traditional students.

A little more than a year ago, Marshfield High School student Katelynn Creson walked into her counselor’s office with a goal: She wanted to figure out how to graduate high school. Katelynn was about to begin her senior year at MHS, but she wasn’t on track to walk across stage with her peers the following spring. Also, she was expecting a baby. “She came in and said, ‘I know you don’t know me, but my name is Katelynn,” says Counselor Amy Barlow. Barlow was in her first year at the high school, and she was following in the footsteps of a counselor who had been in the district 30 years. “She was the first kid I met at Marshfield,” Barlow says. “She said, ‘I’m going to have a baby. I am behind on credits.’”

Before partnering with Launch, Marshfield High School didn’t have an option for credit recovery, which meant Katelynn didn’t have many possible paths. “The other counselors here told me that Katelynn didn’t have a very good chance of graduating,” Barlow says. But the school had just began offering Launch courses, and Barlow knew about the possibilities Launch provided from working with the program in her previous role at Springfield’s Parkview High School.

“I thought, ‘You know, I’m going to give her the option,’” Barlow says. “I said, your baby isn’t due until December. We’re going to put you in a full load here, plus give you two extra Launch classes online. We’re going to try to get you a little ahead, so that way it will get a bit easier. Let’s see if you even like it first. We’ll see if Launch is even going to be a thing for you.” Barlow decided to leave the rest up to Katelynn. “I told her if she could be successful in that—if she could pass all of her classes here and pass her two online Launch classes—then I’d let her go all Launch her final semester,” Barlow says.

Fast forward nine months, and Katelynn walked back into Barlow’s office with her 5-month-old daughter, Olivia, on her hip. A grin took over her face as she introduced her baby to her former teachers. Katelynn had her daughter, and she had also just completed her final semester of high school with Launch classes online. “After I had her, I was able to come home and do all of my classes,” Katelynn says. “I didn’t want to be away. I didn’t have to come back to school unless I needed help. I’m so grateful. I definitely wouldn’t have graduated without Launch, or without Mrs. Barlow’s help.”

While Katelynn was the first Marshfield High School student to take Launch courses, she blazed the path for many more—the program is just the solution Marshfield High School Principal Mr. Jeff Curley was looking for. “It makes sense for the flexibility for our kids,” Curley says. “We’re in the business of kids and trying to meet their needs, and as the world changes, our kids’ needs change. We feel like Launch gives us the flexibility to meet our kids’ needs.”

Curley is talking about all kids in this scenario—kids who want to take courses that Marshfield doesn’t offer; kids who have failed courses and need to makeup credits, and kids like Katelynn who who have personal life circumstances that prevent them from earning their high school credits in a “traditional” way. “I would say that kids’ home lives sometimes have adversity,” Curley says. “With that adversity, the traditional high school setting doesn’t meet their needs all the time. By having the flexibility of online classes—we have some really brilliant kids here—they can make it work online and make life a little better for themselves.”

Kennedy Deckard, a junior at Marshfield High School, is another MHS student who found herself in a Launch course—her reason was to help her prepare to take her college entrance exam. “I just finished taking the ACT prep course,” Deckard says. “It took actual questions from the ACT and exposed me to them before I go and take the actual test, soI think that it will really help me I have a busy schedule between sports, homework and working, so being able to do this class at my own pace, and on my own time, was very nice.”

Kennedy plans to take more Launch classes next fall, and she has full support from the administrative staff at MHS, who is always looking to provide the best opportunities for their students. “The world keeps changing, and change is what usually hinders us from moving forward,” Curley says. “We tend to make decisions based out of fear. My advice to other administrators who actually might be considering Launch as an option would be, ‘Don’t be fearful.’ Move forward. This is a great opportunity for kids.”

Read the full story in Access Launch.