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Ole Miss’ online program to complete high school offers expanding opportunities for earning diplomas

By Pam Starling

University of Mississippi

High school students hailing from cities across Mississippi, various states and even a few foreign countries are taking advantage of the University of Mississippi’s online program to complete high school courses with the UM High School.

During the 2016-17 academic year, UMHS staff oversaw continuing efforts to provide academic excellence and continued outreach for students who want to earn their high school degrees in a nontraditional way.

“We aim to meet our students where they are,” said Ellen Shelton, director of UM pre-college programs. “We work to provide the highest quality education for students for whom the traditional classroom doesn’t work.”

Partnering with Stonewater

A new partnership emerged this year between UMHS and the Oxford-based Stonewater Adolescent Addiction Recovery Center.

“We needed a nationally accredited program to provide our students with courses that not only keep them from falling behind on their studies but also allow them to excel,” said Daniel Farmer, the center’s academic adviser.

“Choosing an online program such as the UMHS, which is ranked among the top 25 online high school diploma programs in the country, aligned with our goals because we at Stonewater strive to be one of the best treatment facilities serving adolescents.”

The program saw about six students from Stonewater enroll in classes during the first semester of the partnership, said Thomas Herrington, UMHS coordinator.

“The Stonewater coordinators wanted a way for students to keep on track for graduation while they were focusing on recovery,” Herrington said. “I feel like this was a strong partnership because we offer an accredited, flexible program for their patients. We have teachers and faculty who care and are very accessible to students.”

More than 280 students are enrolled in the UM High School. These students have chosen the program to complete high school courses online due to illness, moving, family military enlistments or any number of situations, Shelton said.

The program’s goal is to help students learn in the best way possible so that they can go on to be successful, she said.

“The program continues to meet the growing need for options that help students complete individual high school courses that fill in the gap for schools that may not have a particular class that the student is interested in,” Shelton said. “We also have students who enroll in a full slate of UMHS classes in order to earn their high school diploma.”

The diploma-route students were honored May 20 on the Ole Miss campus during the annual graduation celebration event.

Eight students graduate

Eight students who were enrolled full-time in the program earned their diplomas in 2017 and are heading to college and work opportunities. Four of those eight were able to attend the ceremony with their families.

During the event, Joseph Landry Smith was honored with this year’s M. Lynne Murchison Academic Achievement Award in the 2017 graduating class.

“I felt that the UM High School was a great opportunity for me to explore my maximum potential, even with a busy schedule,” Smith said. “Not only was exploration an option, but I was allowed to progress in a fast, efficient manner.”

Smith plans to enroll at the University of Southern Mississippi this fall to pursue his goal of becoming a neuropsychologist.

Graduate Jamie McGee of Birmingham, Alabama, was chosen by the faculty as the graduation speaker for the event.

“After moving to another state, I needed a new schooling option, and UMHS was the best thing for me,” said McGee, who plans to enroll at Troy University this fall majoring in psychology.

Rebecca Cantrell of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, said that the faculty members were a big part of the reason she excelled in the program.

“They challenged me, and it made me dig deeper to see what I was capable of accomplishing,” she said.

Cantrell will enroll at Southeast Missouri State University in the fall.

The UMHS program enrolls students anytime throughout the year and offers more than 50 online courses for high school credit. For more information, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/umhs.