Is there HOPE for Dougherty Students? -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Is there HOPE for Dougherty Students?

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - As seniors get ready for their final days of high school, just how many of them will have the opportunity to further their educations?

The Dougherty County School System has been working toward improving the graduation rate, and it has, but the number of seniors who graduate and qualify for the HOPE scholarship is well below the state average.

Graduation is just days away for 18-year old Kimaya Turner, a senior at Dougherty High. "Are you excited about graduation?" "Yes ma'am."

Excited and ready, but getting here hasn't always been easy. She's struggled in some courses and doesn't qualify for the HOPE scholarship, but she's hopeful this last grading period will help boost her GPA.

She said, "To me it's a prestigious award. It will help me pay for a lot of college stuff and at this moment I really need it."

But many of the students in the system won't get there. Dougherty County lags behind when compared to the state.

Here's a look at numbers we calculated from 2008: Of the graduates at Albany High, only about 29% were eligible for HOPE, at Dougherty High, the number fell to just 15%. Monroe is slightly better with 20% and at Westover High, 29% were eligible. On a whole, the system averaged about a 24% eligibility rate for grads. All of those numbers fell way behind the state average of 38.5%.

R.D. Harter said,  "I think the whole point of education is to provide young people opportunities and I think we're working hard to try to do that whether we make people HOPE eligible is really dependent on the students performance."

But that's something the system is helping students with. "Improve student performance academically, increase graduation rate, reducing people staying at home, improving attendance. Students who don't do as well academically all those things that we're working on presently will contribute to a more successful school as been shown by the increase in numbers over the last few years."

The good news for Turner is that even if she doesn't get HOPE, she's not hopeless. She's got a scholarship to Ft. Valley State. "I was thankful for the scholarship they gave me. It was a blessing." A chance to continue her education, keeping her hopes alive.

A positive note for Dougherty High School: They've increased the number of graduates from 138 graduating in 2008, to 151 graduating on Saturday.

        • So what is HOPE all about?

HOPE - Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally - is Georgia's unique scholarship and grant program that rewards students with financial assistance in degree, diploma, and certificate programs at eligible Georgia public and private colleges and universities, and public technical colleges. HOPE is funded entirely by the Georgia Lottery for Education, which also funds Georgia's statewide prekindergarten program. Since the HOPE Program began in 1993, over $3.8 billion in HOPE funds have been awarded to more than 1.1 million students attending Georgia's colleges, universities, and technical colleges. You can benefit from HOPE in several ways.



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