Ashland Alternative School Gives Students A Second Shot

Originally the story I’m about to show you began as a news story. I pitched the idea at the beginning of the semester as “a new alternative school opened up in Ashland and I would like to see how it’s doing. The population rate has doubled in Ashland and the dropout rate is increasing...ect.”

The assistant news director was really hoping for a feature on it, so I jumped at the idea.

Over the course of this story, I really enjoyed getting to know the people in the story. I had the opportunity to speak with the principle who started it all, the passionate teacher who keeps it going, and the student who’s not giving up.

Although it’s your typical kind of feature, I felt it was one worth telling. I’m used to writing features on well…not so ordinary things, so it was nice to do a story like this for a change.

My only regret was the amount of time I didn’t have to actually write it. I felt the interviews went great, but by the time I got to write the story, I was in a crunch. Nevertheless it got done!

Click here to listen to the story.


For students who decide to drop out of high school, getting back in is almost impossible. But for dropouts in the Ashland-area, administrators in the Southern Boone County School District are making sure they get the opportunity to go back. The Ashland Alternative School opened its doors to twenty high school students in August. Already there is a waiting list. KBIA’s Tara Grimes shows how this school is giving students a second shot at their education.

Just beyond the side doors of the Southern Boone Middle School is a classroom. And in the small quiet classroom filled with computers sits 18-year-old Kaylee Silvers clicking away. For three hours a day Silvers patiently works on a lesson plan. Outside of the classroom Silvers holds a part time job working at a tanning salon. Past the bright blonde hair and bubbly personality is someone who hasn’t had the easiest time in life.

“My best friend died two days before my sixteenth birthday and that’s where I dropped out of school because it was really rough,” Silvers said.

Shortly after that her other best friend moved to Colorado.

“It was going to be my sophomore year that year, and that’s when I said I would try to go back that first quarter, but without them both being there I just couldn’t do it,” Silvers said. “There was no way I could sit in a classroom all day and then try and walk the halls and them not be there.”

Silvers lived on her own for a year and a half. She worked full time and paid all of her bills. But a letter from Southern Boone Middle School’s Principle Bob Simpson inviting her to apply to the school changed the course of her life. It’s a letter that changed the lives of twenty students. Simpson says they looked for certain students.

“They need to be in grades 9 though 12, they need to be credit deficit,” Simpson said. “We prioritize those applicants, obviously juniors and seniors, if they’re on the list are going to priority over freshman or sophomore. And then we just take those in the greatest need on a first priority basis.”

Once accepted into Southern Boone Alternative School, students must come to school three hours each weekday. They must also either do volunteer service work or hold a part time job. Students work at their own pace and with help from counselors choose a course of study specific to their needed graduation requirements. Simpson, along with other administrators, started the program.

“A lot of the decisions we make here are based on our data, and our data was telling us that our dropout statistics were increasing,” Simpson said.

Misty Brawner is the school’s afternoon teacher. She sees the benefit this program brings to those who must work to help out their families or those who just can’t learn in a traditional school environment.

“It’s not a dumping ground, it’s kids that just need to learn in a different environment and there’s people involved with this, teachers and administrators, that really want it to work,” Brawner said. “And they’re working to get that done and have it be a positive thing for the community.”

By next December, four students are expected to graduate. Students won’t receive a regular high school diploma, but they will be handed a diploma a step above the GED. Silvers says there’s one thing that keeps her going.

“I just really want to walk across the stage in a gown,” Silvers said.

And it’s not only the students who are excited about graduating. Brawner says she has already hung up yearbook graduation pictures.

“It’s just a good feeling because these kids are going to graduate; they are going to get their diploma. And that’s the best feeling seeing that,” Brawner said.

Brawner says she feels sometimes education is taken for granted.

“I just think education, once you have it, is something nobody can take from you and then these kids will have that for the rest of their life,” Brawner said. “For some people high school diploma it’s just the beginning, but for some people that’s the pinnacle. They got their high school diploma and maybe they were the first in their entire family even, but they did it. And that for me is the most meaningful part of being in this program.”

As for Simpson, he hopes to expand the program.

“It’s going to take time and we’re going to need to show that the program working proves our efficacy, but I’m confident the way things are going that we’ll be able to do that,” Simpson said.

But with time, hopefully the Ashland Alternative Education Program can continue giving students a second shot at their education. For now, at least one student, Silvers, will continue calling herself a future 2010 graduate. What about after that? She says she hopes college is also in her future. Tara Grimes, KBIA News.



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