Keyshawd Marshall is young, ambitious and ready to improve his lot.
He wants a better job and a high school diploma, two goals he can accomplish to make his mother proud and help him build a life. And as he fills out the last few lines of his application to Augusta’s Graduation Achievement Center of Georgia, he feels those goals may be within reach.
“I just want to show my mother I can do it, that I can at least get a high school diploma,” Marshall said. “I want to show that someone from my family can get that. And I can get better jobs with that too.”
Marshall was one of many in the Augusta GAC’s computer lab during open house on Thursday, as around 70 students joined for opportunities to take online classes to gain a high school diploma at their own pace.
The center, located on the second floor of the City of Augusta Utilities Department Building on Bay Street, is a tuition–free, online charter school that hosts a computer lab, a teacher and two tutors. Affiliated with the Georgia Provost Academy, the school plans to offer a more “Georgia centered” education for its student base. The center had closed for a period of time this year – which did not interrupt student progress – but officials said that had more to do with a planned change of direction for the program, not finances, and that the center was not at risk of closing again any time soon.
“We wanted to bring the focus back to Georgia students. We previously were affiliated with the Magic Johnson Bridgescape program, but that was national in focus. We restructured our program so we could bring that local focus to the front,” Georgia Provost Academy Chief Leadership Officer Johnathan Woods said. “We want to prepare students for the testing they will experience in this state, which is different than the kind you will find in Ohio or New York.”
Students must be 14 to 20 years old to apply, but there are no other restrictions for attendance. Those at the GAC can take online courses from the center or from home, completing assignments in their own time. Those who dropped out or are considering dropping out of school can use the program to gain a Georgia high school diploma, while those looking to receive a diploma at an accelerated rate can drastically speed up their education process.
“We’re just like other high schools. We are accredited by SACS. You can get a diploma and go to college from here,” Woods said. “We just allow our students more flexibility.”
That flexibility helps students that struggled in traditional environments, Program Coordinator Jessica Chester said.
“We have a variety of students here, from Augusta, Columbia County, McDuffie … and from all socio-economic levels,” Chester said. “But it’s not just a ‘second chance,’ this program can help out anyone looking for their high school diploma.”
For many Georgia residents attending GAC’s open house, that was welcome news.
LaShaundra Sinclair, who was signing up her 19-year-old daughter, said she hoped the center’s unique environment would help her daughter.
“She can go at her own pace here. She can take her time and really get an understanding of the courses. That’s not something you can do in a regular school,” Sinclair said.
Classes start Aug. 4. For information on the Graduation Achievement Center, visit http://www.gradgeorgia.com/.