12:33 PM

Community Impact: Gwinnett County Public Library

As life gets busy, earning a high school diploma for those who didn’t graduate as a younger student can be challenging. There’s work, family and a greater demand for time management.

But, without a high school diploma or GED, an employee in Georgia typically earns $19,172 a year, according to the U.S. Census. Career advancement opportunities are also less likely when someone doesn’t complete their high school education.

“If you don’t have a high school education you will always have barriers, it becomes an everyday challenge,” said Casey Wallace, training manager for the Gwinnett County Public Library, which has 15 library branches in Gwinnett County.

With a commitment to supporting education and community needs, the Gwinnett County Public Library offers its Career Online High School – an accredited online program that allows adult students to earn their high school diploma and prepares them for specific career fields. The library recently received a $20,000 grant from the Jackson EMC Foundation to provide financial assistance for the Career Online High School.

Before a prospective student is accepted in the free online program, they complete a screening and interview process. Once in the program, they have access to academic coaches to monitor their progress during their self-paced coursework. The library also loans laptops and equipment to access the internet for students, if needed.

“These are people who really want to make a change in their lives,” Wallace said.

Most students complete the online program in about 12 months, but it also depends on how many credits students had from a previous high school, Wallace said. Oftentimes, students are working or raising children, so the Career Online High School allows them to open a laptop any time and begin studying or completing coursework. The library also offers tutoring for students in the program.

For those who have completed the online program, having a high school diploma has allowed them to accelerate their careers. Before starting the program, one graduate was unable to get a promotion due to not having her high school diploma. With the program she was not only able to graduate, but received a promotion upon graduation, Wallace said.

“Their success is our success,” Wallace added.

To honor their success, the Gwinnett County Public Library holds a graduation ceremony for students who complete the program. It’s an opportunity for the students’ families to see them in caps and gowns, and to celebrate their academic accomplishments, Wallace said. For the graduates, it’s a second chance to finish high school.

"We’re so very grateful to the members of Jackson EMC for donating to this program,” said Shelly Schwerzler, development manager, Gwinnett County Public Library. “This program relies on charitable contributions like this one to continue.”