|VALTS: Against the odds|
|March 22, 2012 Elizabeth Gross|
A worker at Jackie Escalante's framing company surveys the progress of a current project for framing business she owns and operates with her husband. Escalante feels that the VAULTS program empowered her to succeed in her life.
Editor’s note: This is the third and final article in a three-part series exploring the VALTS program.
We have all been faced with difficult tasks in our life. The determination to succeed tells us whether or not those difficult tasks will beat us. For two former VALTS graduates, the classic high school setting was not for them. Each of them had different reasons for joining the program but it provided them both one thing; a second chance to succeed.
Jasmine Lee has recently graduated thanks to the VALTS program. During her junior year at Gering High School, Lee was hospitalized with blood clots. As a result she ended up missing a lot of school while trying to recover. Lee was also struggling with a lot of her school work. She needed a more one on one approach to her learning. “I needed more attention from my teachers than I could get in a class of thirty,” says Lee, “I was struggling until I started VALTS.”
Lees experience with VALTS made things a lot easier on her. Her schedule allowed her to arrive at school later in the afternoon, more rested. “I miss it already. I loved everything about VALTS,” said Lee. “When you take a group of kids who may not have the brightest past or kids who can’t keep up and put them in a building where they aren’t being judged. They are going to be just fine.”
Being able to find a place where she could succeed, Lee feels that VALTS is the best alternative solution for students. “It may not be the only way but let me tell you, it is the best,” said Lee. “Trying to find an alternative to VALTS is like putting a Band-Aid on the tip of your finger and expecting it to stay. Sure it will look nice and work alright the first couple of minutes, maybe even an hour. In the end it will start peeling and you’ll have to start using more Band-Aids. Eventually, you are left with one big annoying mess,” said Lee.
Now graduated with her high school diploma she plans on attending college online. Lee will be studying photography online with the Academy of Art University, an art school located in San Francisco, CA. After graduation, she hopes to someday be a wildlife photographer.
Mike Davenport is a 2000 graduate of Scottsbluff High School. As a freshman Davenport realized the temptation of not showing up for class. He admits to getting into trouble in school and at home. “Freshman year, I realized how easy it was to skip class and not get into trouble,” said Davenport. By spring of his sophomore year, Davenport had decided to drop-out; however, Scottsbluff principal Mr. Begley, suggested that Davenport attend VALTS instead.
That next fall Davenport started the VALTS program. Davenport enjoyed the program, especially field trips to Cheyenne or Denver. “I’m glad now that I was able to go to VALTS. I wouldn’t have graduated if I hadn’t gone,” said Davenport. After graduation, it took Davenport a couple more years before he straightened his life out. Today he works at Team Chevrolet. When it comes to education, Davenport feels it all begins with the parents. “If they’re not involved with their kids’ education, the kid is probably not going to do well in school,” said Davenport.
Jackie Escalante is also a 2000 graduate from Scottsbluff High School and former student of the VALTS program. For Escalante, the pain of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis made her fall behind in school. She wasn’t sure if she was going to get caught up in time to graduate with her class. Determined to graduate on time, she joined the VALTS program. “I enjoyed attending the program because it was a smaller class size and you worked at your own pace,” said Escalante. The scheduling at VALTS made it possible for her to go to her doctor’s appointments without it interfering with her class schedule. Escalante was able to graduate on time with her class, thanks to VALTS.
After graduation, Escalante moved to Kansas City with her high school sweetheart. A year after arriving in Kansas City, they married and purchased their first home. During that time, Escalante worked as a photographer and her husband worked in construction. She has also attended college and received two medical certifications. “Without my high school diploma, this would have been difficult to do,” said Escalante.
Today, Escalante and her husband have created a successful framing business. Their company does many large projects including; hotels, apartment complexes and duplexes. “Our business is a successful one that is growing,” said Escalante. They’ve had three children, with the newest member of the family born last October. Escalante is currently in the process of starting her own photography business.
When it comes to alternative education, Escalante feels the VALTS program is the best program for students. She feels that there would be more dropouts if alternative learning was not provided to students who needed it. “I would rather invest money in giving kids the opportunity to graduate as opposed to using taxpayers’ money to support them long-term because they are unable to get a decent-paying job due to a lack of education,” said Escalante.
Escalante appreciates the opportunity she had to attend VALTS. It was a life-changing experience for her. “I’d like to thank the teachers I had in 2000 Lana, Deb, Pam, Deedee and Dan for being such wonderful educators.”
With the increasing pressure of having students graduate on time, schools are looking for solutions to solve low graduation rates. How can they ensure that students succeed? There seems to be a need for alternative education for some. One thing these former students of the VALTS program can agree on is that without their experience at VALTS, they would not be where they are today.
Read more by Elizabeth Gross