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Utah academy’s business is helping high school dropouts drop back in

Firm’s online learning model is benefitting students in six states.

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"We hear often from our kids that this is the first time they understood clearly what they’re required to do to get a final grade," Rosann said.

About 60 percent of Thomas’ students are female, and many are single mothers.

At a glance

Education level and average annual income

$19,540 » High school dropout

$27,380 » High school diploma

$36,190 » Associate’s degree

$46.930 » Bachelor’s degree

Source: U.S. Department of Education

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"They come from all nationalities. I’m seeing myriad situations," Thomas said, noting that some have strong family support and others are having to make it on their own.

"It can be intense, at other times fun and lighthearted. But I try to make them stay focused and maximize that window that we have."

His greatest reward so far, Thomas said, is "participating in a life being turned around."

One student, Edwin, needs one more credit to graduate and has earned A’s and B’s in his coursework.

"He’ll be one of our first grads in the state of Florida," Thomas said. And if Edwin chooses to participate in his school’s graduation ceremony, Thomas said he plans to be in the audience.

By year’s end, Rosann expects the company’s student numbers to reach 1,000 and to increase to 2,500 by the end of 2012. By 2016, he projects that 18,000 will tap the Academy’s programs.

"As enrollment continues to grow, the Academy’s staff will grow," Rosann said. "The company expects to have 150 to 200 employees in the next four years."

At present, the Academy is unable to contract with Utah’s school districts.

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Some states had laws and policies that were more conducive than others for the Academy’s dropout recovery initiative, Rosann said. Now that the program is established in six states, the Academy is working with Utah’s office of education to determine what steps are needed to provide the services here.

"Obviously it means a lot to us to be able to do it in our own backyard," Rosann said.

For 16-year-old Shalana Klemann of Southfield, Mich., signing on with NoDropouts has kept her on track when no other options would have worked.

Since eighth grade, Klemann has suffered from social anxiety disorder. Although her "people phobia" keeps her from face-to-face encounters in brick-and-mortar classrooms, her mind continues to search for knowledge.

Thanks to NoDropouts, Klemann is at the 11th-grade level earning a 3.9 GPA and expects to graduate by 2013. She hopes to pursue college courses in the legal or medical field.

"Not many people have seen a case like mine," Klemann said. "Everyone’s hoping that my panic attacks will decrease."

In the meantime, Klemann is building success, one online credit at a time.

"It’s truly a heaven-sent program," she said.


Twitter: @catmck

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