After “graduating” from foster care into the Children’s Home Society of Florida, formerly homeless young woman finally earns her high school diploma through innovative online program with Smart Horizons Career Online Education.
Nafissatou “Nafi” Jean has always loved children. Her desire to help them prompted her to set her career sights on becoming a pediatrician. Growing up in foster care, Nafi knew firsthand the importance of surrounding kids with caring and involved adults. But her path from foster care to future pediatrician was not without its challenges—the first of which was earning her high school diploma.
Nafi was recently able to overcome this hurdle through a unique program offered by the Children’s Home Society of Florida, which serves homeless youth and their families in the Treasure Coast region of Florida. Nafi became involved with Children’s Home Society of Florida when she aged out of the foster care system in 2012. The Children’s Home Society of Florida recently inaugurated a partnership with Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE) to enable young people in the Children’s Home Society of Florida transitional living program to attend SHCOE’s SACS-accredited online high school.
By the end of her senior year of high school, Nafi had completed all of her high school courses; however, she was unable to pass the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), a requirement for graduation in the state of Florida. She was devastated to find she would not be able to graduate. Her foster care case worker suggested that she complete the GED, which would keep her enrolled in school full time (a requirement of foster care). Nafi began the GED program but was dismayed to find that she basically had to start from scratch—it didn’t make a difference that she had already passed all of her high school courses.
“The GED was taking way too long,” she said. “And I had already taken all my school courses so it didn’t make sense for me to get my GED. Then I came to the Children’s Home Society of Florida and they told me about this Smart Horizons Career Online Education high school where I would actually get transfer credit for all of the high school courses I had already completed.”
The SHCOE program is a dual high school diploma plus career certificate program. It allows students like Nafi, who did not pass the FCAT, to transfer in all previously earned credits from accredited institutions. Students complete the four career courses, as well as any core high school credits they are missing, toward a career certificate and high school diploma.
Career Online High School’s newest offerings, which were designed to meet the demands indicated by local and national employment trends, include credentialed career certificates that develop real-world skills in the retail and food service sectors. Other certificate areas include Child Care and Education, Certified Protection Officer, Office Management, Certified Transportation Services, Homeland Security, and General Career Preparation.
The bonus for Nafi was that SHCOE offered a Child Care certificate. “I chose Child Care because it fit into my goal of becoming a pediatrician,” she said. “I learned so many different things that I didn’t know before. It was so interesting. I have loved kids since I was little and I just want to go out there and help them. This got me one step closer to reaching my goal.”
Nixalys Vega, the Children’s Home Society of Florida’s Program Manager who oversees the program, was ecstatic to be able to offer this option to Nafi and students like her. “I was really excited when we identified Nafi as a candidate for SHCOE—and I would recommend this program to any client that comes to Children’s Home Society of Florida wanting to obtain a high school diploma.”
Nafi was just grateful to be given a chance. Ms. Vega said she found Nafi in the Children’s Home Society of Florida computer lab every day—every chance she got—working toward her diploma.
“Nafi’s hopes had been dashed and this program restored them by giving her the opportunity to obtain the high school diploma she wanted—not a GED,” said Ms. Vega. “I was really happy for her. Once she had this opportunity she was very motivated to do the work in order to be able to go to college. She was very dedicated.”
Nafi is currently enrolled in a college program where she is getting one step closer to her dream job. She is grateful to Children’s Home Society of Florida for making the SHCOE program available to her, and says she frequently tells other young people about it. “I recommend this program,” she said. “If you are dedicated to getting the work done you will finish—and the academic coach is there to support you if you need help. I really liked it.”
About Smart Horizons Career Online High School
Smart Horizons Career Online High School is a division of Smart Horizons Career Online Education, a private, AdvancED/SACS accredited online school district. Smart Horizons Career Online High School offers complete 18-credit, career-based high school diplomas, designed to prepare students for careers and the workplace. Career certificate offerings include Childcare Education, Office Management, Protection Services, Homeland Security, Transportation Services, Professional Skills, Retail Customer Service Skills, and Food & Customer Service Skills. For more information, visit our website at www.smarthorizonsonline.org and call our office at 855.777.4263.
About the Treasure Coast Division of the Children’s Home Society of Florida
The Children’s Home Society of Florida Treasure Coast Division serves more than 12,000 youth and their families each year in Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties. CHS is not a government agency and must rely on the support of individuals, civic groups, foundations and businesses for the funds to give children and young adults the opportunity to be safe, healthy and prepared for life. For more information, visit www.chsfl.org or call the Treasure Coast Division office at 772-344-4020.