High school diplomas earned at learning center

Dec. 19, 2013 @ 06:08 PM

In a modest classroom in the Vance County Learning Center, Beatrice Small donned a black cap and gown Saturday to accept her high school diploma.

The 44-year-old dropped out of high school when she was in 10th grade, and came to the Learning Center a year ago.

“School was boring and I wasn’t interested in learning at that time,” Small said of why she left high school.

“I realized when I got older, I wanted to go back to school and get my high school diploma,” she said. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have stayed in school.”

With her high school diploma, Small is looking to take classes at Vance-Granville Community College and possibly pursue a track in nursing.

Small, along with 23-year-old Tyrell Dunston and 17-year-old Tyron Small (no relation to Beatrice) were presented their high school diplomas Sunday in a ceremony at the center.

Dunston, who was not present, recently began attending cosmetology school in Atlanta, Ga., said learning center founder Deryl von Williams.

The three graduates joined the 18 other students who have successfully completed the VCLC adult-focused High School Diploma program in the past three years.

Williams founded the learning center 12 years ago as an alternative education for at-risk students or dropouts in Vance County and the surrounding areas.

Williams recently submitted an application to the N.C. Office of Charter Schools for a middle and high school charter, in addition to the adult programs at the center.

If approved, her school would have 150 students and add 50 students each year until the population reaches 300 total.

“This is a population that is like dough,” she said, explaining why students would gradually be added. “You have to sift in the flour slowly and then knead it, and add some more. You can’t just dump it all in at once.”

Williams said her model for the adult high school diploma program is successful because her students can complete the work at their pace.

“We meet you where you are and get you where you need to be and it just works,” Williams said of her program. “And I am so proud of them.”

Williams said Beatrice Small was full of doubt when she first came to the learning center.

“She said, ‘I can’t do this,’ and now she is confident and talking about possibilities,” she said. “Nobody talked to her about possibilities for employment.”

The Learning Center, which follows the state’s Common Core curriculum, administers 39 lessons, with 10 lessons for grades 9-11 and nine lessons for 12th grade.

Janet Littlejohn, a member of the school’s board of directors, said the self-paced curriculum is a draw for many adults who have not found success is the traditional public school setting.

“They should be able to accomplish these lessons in the time they need,” Littlejohn said.

Littlejohn said some adults can complete the curriculum in as little as 11 weeks, but for some it may take longer.

Beatrice Small completed her course work in about a year, after struggling in the Vance-Granville Community College high school diploma program.

“I was taking classes at Vance-Granville, but I wasn’t learning,” said Beatrice Small, who works at Senior Citizen Nursing Home. “I saw the store front here, and thought, ‘I should check it out.’ I’m glad I did.”

Contact the reporter at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.