It happens to us all at least a few times in our lives. Failure. We don’t always see it coming. We try the hardest to get the result we wanted, but when it doesn’t come it’s like a punch in the stomach. Yet, the powerful truth about the human race is that even through adversity we tend to rise again.

The various stories of students attending Civicorps Academy entails victory as they head towards completion, but it is also drizzled with the fate of failure from their past. The hardships these young adults went through did not stop them from reaching to a higher place. Kathryn Baron from EdSource writes a captivating piece detailing the good Civicorps is providing for those who once fell, but chose to get back up:

Not a single student at one of Oakland’s public high schools has to be there. They all arrive by choice – willingly, happily, sometimes desperately – at Civicorps Academy, a charter school for young adults who have aged out of traditional high school but aren’t too old to want another crack at earning a high school diploma.

22-year-old Tyneisha Crooks left regular high school during her senior year; she just passed the high school exit exam at Civicorps. Credit: K Baron, EdSource

Tyneisha Crooks, 22, left regular high school during her senior year; she just passed the high school exit exam at Civicorps. Credit: Kathryn Baron, EdSource

“People tell me, ‘You’re getting a diploma? (You’re) 22.’ I am,” Tyneisha Crooks said she tells her incredulous inquirers. “There are people older than me getting (a diploma) and I commend them for that; that’s a big step. You got to start from the bottom to get on top and that’s what I’m doing.”

More than 47,000 Oakland Unified high school students dropped out in the past five years. During that same period, nearly 200 of them graduated  from  Civicorps Academy. California’s overall high school dropout rate has been declining in recent years. Out of 501,729 students in the class of 2012, 65,687 dropped out, or 13.1 percent, according to the California Department of Education. That’s 1.6 percentage points lower than the class of 2011 and 3 ½ percentage points below the class of 2009. But it’s still tens of thousands of students a year who leave high school without a diploma, and they’re disproportionately students of color.

Crooks is one of about 150 students between the ages of 18 and 24 enrolled in Civicorps’ high school diploma and job-training program, which is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The school is housed in a modest rust-colored building in West Oakland, close enough to an adjacent Amtrak line to see what the passengers are reading. Once inside, however, Civicorps Academy has a soothing, somewhat pastoral atmosphere due, in large part, to a high-ceilinged atrium, left over from a prior tenant, where meetings and programs are held under a canopy of ficus trees that are rooted into the ground water.

The program opened in 1983 as the East Bay Conservation Corps, which also ran an elementary and middle school. They converted to charter schools in 1995, receiving the state’s 99th charter and, in 2009, changed their name to Civicorps Academy to better reflect the program’s community service and job-training mission, explained Head of School and former Peace Corps volunteer Tessa Nicholas. East Bay Conservation Corps consolidated the elementary and middle schools in 2009, and closed them last year citing declining enrollment.

While there are many adult education centers and community college programs in California where people who never completed high school can go to earn a high school equivalency degree, known as a GED, Civicorps Academy is the only public high school in the state that requires students to earn a diploma along with job training skills. The only other similar school in the state, the San Jose Conservation Corps and Charter School, offers diplomas or vocational certificates, according to the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara. Because they are publicly funded like any other charter or traditional public school, students don’t pay to attend.

Other programs, such as Job Corps, a federal program with seven locations in California, offer both GEDs and diplomas, but the majority of their students receive technical training or GEDs, according to Job Corps data. Those students are not counted as high school graduates by the state Department of Education.

Civicorps students plant a tree at the school's new job training center in West Oakland. Pictured (from left to right): Kamree Miller, Raheem Brown, Amanda Orr & Komarai Anderson. Credit: Civicorps Academy

Civicorps students plant a tree at the school’s new job training center in West Oakland. Pictured, from left, Kamree Miller, Raheem Brown, Amanda Orr & Komarai Anderson. Credit: Civicorps Academy

“I think it’s a model that has been proven to work,” said Russell Rumberger about the Civicorps type of program. Rumberger, who directs the California Dropout Research Project and is an education professor at UC Santa Barbara, said that by linking academics and job training, students see the relevancy of their schoolwork. “In general, especially for this group of kids, it’s a viable model because they can earn their diplomas and get job skills.”

In order to graduate, Civicorps students are required to pass the California High School Exit Exam just like anyone else. They also take specialized adult education assessments such as those offered by the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems. However, instead of graded exams in each class, diploma requirements include research papers, oral reports, class projects, community service, multimedia presentations and workshops on such topics as First Aid and CPR. They also have to show competence in life skills and career development.

To read more, check out the original article here.