For Smart Horizons Career Online Education (SHCOE) students Charlyne Boileau and Shawn Bowman, the path to graduation was anything but traditional. Boileau and Bowman, ages 41 and 34, respectively, both dropped out of high school in their teen years. Now parents with full-time jobs, they were each motivated by their careers and their children to enroll back into high school last summer. A little over a year later, SHCOE is pleased to announce that Boileau and Bowman have successfully earned their high school diplomas and credentialed career certificates, becoming the first two graduates of Smart Horizons Career Online Education.

Launched in May of 2010 with the goal of re-engaging adult learners, SHCOE is the world’s first AdvancEd/SACS accredited online school district. Its mission is to prepare students for careers in high-demand occupational areas. In addition to earning a high school diploma, students earn a credentialed certificate in the career major of their choice, with certificate offerings in areas such as security, transportation, and office management.

SCHOE is especially focused on giving adult and at-risk learners who were not previously successful in high school an opportunity to achieve both academic and career success. Its programs are entirely online and self paced, but are accompanied by extensive support services. Students have up to 18 months to complete the high school diploma-plus-certificate program.

For these two adult students, high school graduation signifies a tremendous life accomplishment.

Charlyne Boileau, a 41-year-old parent from Lantana, FL, enrolled in SHCOE in July 2010. She works in a pre school called Planet Kids: A World of Learning, where she oversees a class of 13 three-year-olds. Already employed in the child care field, she chose SHCOE’s Child Care and Education Career Certificate program, which is designed to give child care workers practical, “real-world” tools that they can implement in their current or future classrooms. Boileau says that she got to the point in her child-care career that not having a high school diploma was preventing her from advancing. Now, she says, “Having my diploma and certificate will secure my position and allow me to continue working.”

Boileau says she had an easier time focusing and staying engaged with the SHCOE program than with traditional programs; “I found it way better than sitting in a classroom. In a classroom, you can find yourself zoning out sometimes, but I had very little zone-out time with this program.”

She originally chose the SHCOE program because, in her words, “I wasn’t happy with just getting a GED. With Smart Horizons you’re earning real credits and working toward an actual diploma.”

When asked what the best part about graduating was, Boileau stated, “I was able to get my high school diploma ahead of my son, which was my way of letting him know that it’s important.”

The second graduate, Shaun Bowman, is a 34-year old father who works full time and travels frequently for his job. He enrolled in SHCOE’s Office Management Career Certificate program in August 2010.

“I had tried going to adult high school, but it didn’t offer the flexibility I needed,” Bowman said. “I travel in my job, and with SHCOE I was able to do school work in hotels on the road. I was able to put the office management skills I learned to immediate use at work. I was fortunate enough to come in on an academic scholarship and this has just been a great experience.”

Bowman works as an area manager for Conrad Yelvington Distributors-a Daytona Beach-based company that distributes construction aggregates throughout the Southeast.

“I was promoted to area manager with the understanding that I was going to get my high school diploma, which was a requirement of the new position,” Bowman said. “The flexibility I had with SHCOE made it possible.”

Bowman said the main thing that motivated him to get his diploma was the desire to make life easier for his six-year-old son, JD.

For both students, earning a high school diploma and career certificate has strengthened their position in the workplace, as well as sent a powerful message to their children.

Susan McLeod, Lead Academic Coach for SHCOE, shared a sentiment echoed by the teachers and staff at the district when she stated, “I am thrilled for these students. This is really a win for them and for their families. It has been a privilege to work with both of them and to witness their success stories first hand.”

McLeod knows all too well the sacrifices and challenges that many adult high school diploma students face. “In order to succeed they have to overcome challenges that the average high school student never encounters. Their graduation is more than the completion of courses, assignments, and tests. Their graduation is a reflection of their personal sacrifice, their work ethic, their core values, and their commitment to succeed in spite of previous school experiences, job and family obligations, and financial issues.”