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By Sarah Beauchemin
Ingenuity Charter School is different from other high schools in San Diego. Not only does the school boast a unique blended learning program of online and classroom instruction, but their staff acts as agents of change for students – both inside and outside the academic realm.
[call_to_action color=”” button_text=”Click here” button_url=”http://ingenuitycharter.org”]If you or someone you know needs an alternative educational environment, Ingenuity is available to you. Enroll online today.[/call_to_action]“Many Ingenuity students are tasked with incredible responsibilities on the home front,” said Stephanie Hall, Special Ed instructor at Ingenuity. “This includes everything from helping to raise their younger siblings, to cooking and cleaning, to even working 30-40 hours per week. In some cases, students’ families are dealing with serious issues like homelessness or terminal illness.”
Teenagers who face the magnitude of such responsibilities at home often have no other choice but to drop out of traditional high schools.
Making Graduation Possible
“I don’t think most people understand the challenges that these students face on a daily basis,” said Charity Harang, an instructor at Ingenuity. “A lot of the time it is their education that falls by the wayside. If they have the option of either working to help put food on the table for their family or doing homework, one of those is clearly going to win.”
The online program at Ingenuity gives students a real shot at completing high school and graduating. They can study and complete their work online 24 hours a day, whenever it suits their schedule, and instructors are available to assist on demand.
Harang also points out that the familial issues and responsibilities Ingenuity students grapple with are probably far more common than we are led to believe. “I believe it is more widespread than what is being discussed or reported,” she said. “If these are just the students that Ingenuity sees, how many other students in San Diego County are in similar situations?”
How Ingenuity Serves Students and The Community
The primary goal at Ingenuity is to be flexible, and to be available to all of its students for help with academic or familial issues. Some of their main support systems include:
Offering family support services – All Ingenuity students have access to the Family Support Services (FSS) that are located on The O’Farrell Charter School’s (OCS) campus. FSS offers students a wide range of services from counseling, to help with government assistance programs, to distributing donated items like blankets, housewares, and canned and dry food. Ingenuity students at OCS are able to get free or reduced breakfast and lunch there, as well.
- Opportunity to play CIF sports – Ingenuity students are able to play CIF sports through The O’Farrell Charter School (OCS). Academically eligible students can join any of the CIF teams at OCS, including basketball, soccer, volleyball, cross country, cheerleading, and track and field.
- Helping with transportation – Transportation issues are a common problem with Ingenuity students. Most don’t have cars, and some can’t afford bus passes. If this is the case, Ingenuity will provide free bus passes for students who live a certain distance from the school. Instructors will also go to students’ houses for weekly check-ins if they can’t come to school.
- Exploring college and career options – The staff at Ingenuity provides unique opportunities for students to explore their many college and career options. This is accomplished through field trips and professional guest speakers throughout the school year. Ingenuity also hosts an annual career fair where students have the chance to talk with professionals working in a wide range of fields. The next career fair takes place on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.
- Personalized mentorship – Above all, Ingenuity’s instructors pride themselves on the personalized mentorship and attention they give to each of their students. “One of the reasons I’m at Ingenuity is because we’re able to provide an option to students who wouldn’t be able to graduate high school otherwise,” said Harang. “I have about 15 students set to graduate this year, and at least a third of them have expressed that they didn’t think they’d ever be able to graduate. That’s where we come in.”
- Benefitting the community as a whole – Due to the flexibility of Ingenuity’s unique blended learning program, students are able to complete their schoolwork while helping out at home and, oftentimes, while holding down a job. This sets a strong, positive example for their younger siblings and community members by showing what it means to juggle these responsibilities. By witnessing this at a young age, children see their older siblings as role models, understanding that it is possible to succeed academically even while attending to the demanding obligations on the home front.
Most importantly, the program at Ingenuity shows students that they can continue to achieve, post-graduation. “The majority of our students want to go on to do something else, like enlist in the military, enroll in a trade school, or enroll in traditional college classes,” said Harang. “We want them to know that they can do any and all of this, and that they have our support to continue throughout their lives.”