San José residents can earn a high school diploma through the library for free; program offers a springboard to greater career and educational opportunities
Since 2016, the San José Public Library has supported adults in their journey to earn a high school diploma. In partnership with Career Online High School (COHS), the library has achieved two major milestones: a 70% completion rate for graduates—among the best in the nation—and just this year, its 150th student graduating from the program.
What has set the San José Public Library—and COHS students—up for these tremendous successes? One word: scholarships.
Made possible by the California State Library and generous sponsors, the San José Public Library Foundation is able to offer full scholarships for adults to enroll in COHS and earn their diplomas through the library—for free.
To date, thanks to tireless outreach by the library, the Foundation has awarded more than 240 scholarships.
First comes opportunity. Then comes hard work. And COHS graduates know this better than most. They work tirelessly to earn their diplomas—and achieve their dreams—while juggling jobs, family life, and more.
Jonathan Jaquez, COHS Class of 2022 and the library’s 150th graduate did just that.
“I wanted my diploma so I could prove to myself that I could do it,” said Jaquez, who was encouraged to enroll by his brother, a 2019 COHS alumnus. “My son was my inspiration. He works full time and is enrolled in college, fulfilling what he set out to do. It was only right and only time I did the same. Through the program, I gained the knowledge I needed to advance my career.”
Corina Rath, a 2020 COHS graduate, echoed Jaquez’s sentiment. “I wanted to earn my diploma in order to feel better about myself,” she said. “I wanted to be an example to my kids and grandkids. I wouldn’t have gotten my diploma if it wasn’t for this program.”
Her advice for other adults who are considering the program, but are feeling uncertain? “Go for it. A failure is if you don’t try. Then you fail. But you get up and you try. That’s what matters. It’s going to be worth it at the end.”
And along the way, COHS students enjoy extensive support services to ensure they have the tools, resources, and confidence to persevere to graduation. Jaquez recognized the support he received from both the library and his Academic Coaches. “They gave me the footprint, the yellow brick road, the foundation to succeed.”
The COHS program offered through public libraries helps graduates prepare to enter the workforce with improved employment opportunities and/or continue on to higher education.
“The more people who go through the Career Online High School program through the San José Public Library make San José—as a city—a stronger, more vibrant, and thriving place for us all,” said Dawn Coppin, Executive Director of the San José Public Library Foundation.
Indeed, 91% of COHS graduates through public libraries enroll in or plan to pursue postsecondary education.* San José Public Library graduates have matriculated into schools such as Evergreen Valley College, San José City College, Mission College, and Foothill-De Anza Community College District.
Part of Smart Horizons Career Online Education, the world’s first private accredited online school district, COHS has partnered with more than 2,000 library locations across the country.
To learn more about the program, including how to enroll and available scholarship opportunities, visit www.sjpl.org/cohs.
*Source: 2019–2020 Career Online High School Library Alumni Survey