This article was originally published in the Sept. 22 issue of the Progress Times.
Mission CISD alums have a second chance at earning their high school diploma with the district’s new academic program for adults — Options II. The program is in its inaugural year, but at least nine enrollees are already on track to finish what they started as students in their teens.
Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Sharon Roberts said the district started the program to fill a need in the community. Past students often contacted administration inquiring how they could complete their high school credits.
“We really want to help our community, our former students who left school,” Roberts said. “Because life happens and they go and start working and they realize, ‘Hey I really need my high school diploma.’ And so, it was the brainchild of our superintendent that talked to us and said, ‘Can’t we do something for our 21-25 year olds?’”
Options II is a free program exclusively for MCISD alumni, ages 21-25, and per state policy, the students must graduate before their 26th birthday. However, the students did not have to attend Mission CISD for all four high school years to enroll in the program.
“We have a few that were here maybe for their freshman year or sophomore year and then they left to another school district but now they’re back living in Mission,” Director for Student Services Jesse Treviño said. “So even though their last school might be La Joya or McAllen, we’re still taking them because they live here and at one time they were here. So it’s for citizens of Mission CISD.”
The adult academic program is in-person only. Options II students work separately from the regular MCISD student body in the Student Services building. Additionally, the district accommodates their schedules, and they work at their own pace.
“We need their transcripts — that’s the first step. We have to see the graduation requirements that they are lacking. And then once we identify what their credits are, then we can schedule them for those courses. And then they kind of work independently,” Roberts said. “So the longer they’re here, the quicker they’ll finish. And sometimes they’ll come every day, sometimes they come twice a week.”
The Options II program runs Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. But the students can choose to attend for a half day (8 a.m. – noon), full day (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.) or in the evening (4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.).
Those interested in the program must also provide the appropriate identification documentation to enroll. But Roberts said the district tries to make the process as simple as possible to help the students earn their credits as quickly as possible. Treviño echoed the same sentiment.
“The environment at the student center is very friendly,” he said. “We have counselors there; I’m a counselor myself. So we try to bring [the students] in and keep it positive, work with their schedule and figure out how we can help them out.”
Although Options II has nine enrollees at this time, there are several pending applications, Treviño said. In many cases, the students are just a few credits shy of the graduation requirement because they left abruptly during their senior year due to family emergencies.
But regardless of their needs, administration assists them through the process.
“We even try to connect them to certification programs or things like that, where they can continue on if they want to go to South Texas College, which is one of our dual credit partners,” Roberts said. “If they want to go to some kind of vocational school, we guide them toward that if they need.”
Roberts and Treviño explained that many Options II students have said they did not realize the importance of a high school diploma until they entered the workforce. But now they are back in the classroom and studying to help move up in their careers.
“Sometimes kids leave when they’re 17 or 18, and they think, ‘Oh well I’ll just go work here or there.’ But eventually, we do get those calls [asking about their credits],” Roberts said. “That’s why we say life happens. But there are options for getting a second chance to get their high school diploma.”
Those interested in the program can call 956-323-5578 or 956-323-5306. Regardless of age, the superintendent of curriculum and instruction encourages people to call and ask how they can further their education.
“It never hurts to try,” Roberts said. “We’re here; we’re going to be supportive. We try to support all of our students in any way that we can. It doesn’t matter how old they are, at least try. We have assistance available as well, and we’ll help them in any way we can. If you don’t try, you won’t get your diploma, so at least try.”