By Sue Moore
The Vicksburg High School diploma that was awarded to four people who persevered through some heavy challenges was just a piece of paper, according to Steve Fryling, director of a program aimed at easing their path. “The value of it is as a symbol of accomplishment by being committed to learning and doing the work.”
Fryling heads Vicksburg’s WAY program, Widening Advancements for Youth. “Graduation is a milestone,” he told two of the four graduates in attendance at the ceremony in March. “What is important is that they rise above adversity through perseverance in their future endeavors. We want to help you look beyond the diploma and it looks like Brianna Magotti and Kathie St. John are well on their way to heading in the right direction.
The WAY program in Vicksburg is an alternative education opportunity for students 19 and under who have dropped out of the structured high school situation and still want to obtain a diploma. It began four years ago under a contract with a larger organization which offered training online for students and included a laboratory set up locally with on-site supervision.
Fryling initiated this program, packaged it and sold it to the school board. But after four years, he feels it needs to go in a new direction to make it even better. “Our expenses were locked in and not flexible. We want to take a software approach and hire actual teachers here on staff. The long distance didn’t give us enough control to track down problems. We just couldn’t help the kids enough,” Fryling said.
He is launching Vicksburg Pathways for the 2016-17 school year to replace the WAY program. “We will offer more teacher-directed classes with an emphasis on not just the diploma but what the future can hold for students who are challenged to set goals and achieve them. Our students run the gamut–25 percent qualify for special education services; others may be autistic or have attention deficit disorder, be emotionally impaired, or be gifted and talented. Their motivation or environment can get in their way. Fear of the future has become one of the major roadblocks in achieving success for our students,” Fryling said.
“This program will not be bound by the old traditions. We’re the speedboat to changing education for students who have experienced anxiety, a tough family life, or have chosen a circle of friends that hasn’t helped them see a future. They just haven’t had a lot of success before,” he said.
“We want to see them connected to career opportunities or even college as a future. We will work with the Education for Employment (EFE) program in 2017 too. It can be exciting when you see some success and we think Vicksburg Pathways will help to make that happen,” Fryling said.