High school dropouts are not necessarily destined to live out bleak futures anymore thanks to the Stanislaus County Office of Education’s Come Back Kids Charter School Program, which is a high school academic program for adults that want to “come back” and earn their diploma in order to move on to college, technical school or the workforce.
“This particular charter is for recent dropouts,” said Scott Kuykendall, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Options with SCOE. “Every year, we have approximately 900 and 1,100 students who drop out of just Stanislaus County high schools.”
The program, which is both flexible and customized, follows a community college model where students are enrolled in seminars or workshops to identify individual areas of need. Courses are available online or textbook-based, and all courses offer support classes with small groups of students.
“It’s an independent study model of one-on-one, but it does work well with our adult students because many of them already have jobs and families,” said Kuykendall. “This just works in their schedules much better than your typical education class. Students can schedule appointments with teachers all throughout the day and that really works out well.”
Kuykendall said that one of the Come Back Kids courses takes place at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, where students who are interested in construction can receive necessary training in order for them to be employable. Among other things, students have learned how to properly install solar panels, operate forklifts and make picnic tables, one of which they auctioned off at a local fundraiser last year for $1,500.
“I have to mention Jack Wilkey because he was instrumental in doing this,” said Kuykendall. “He was on the [Stanislaus County Fair] Board and he helped us to actually get a building at the fairgrounds.”
In the Come Back Kids Charter School’s first year, Kuykendall said that SCOE was hoping to enroll 25 students. Little did they know that by September, the program would draw in 75 recent dropouts who were all interested in attaining a diploma.
“Our first year we graduated 105 students and last year we graduated 251,” said Kuykendall. “I’m anticipating we are going to graduate 350 to 400 students this year alone. Our Come Back Kid program’s overall enrollment is about 40 percent of all of the County’s programs. This is a program that didn’t even exist three years ago.”
Kuykendall said that while a majority of the charter school’s students fall between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, the program has begun to increasingly welcome students who are in their 30s and 40s, with approximately ten students who are between 50 and 60 years old.
“Our students are mostly younger, but as you can see we’re getting more and students who are older and who want to come back,” said Kuykendall.
The first step to entering the Come Back Kids program is to attend an orientation. Orientation dates for Spring 2016 are March 21 and April 18 in the Board Room at 1100 H. Street in Modesto. Each orientation will have two sessions at 2 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. For more information, visit stancoe.org/SCOE/ed-options/cbk/index.html.