High School dropouts get second chance - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

High School dropouts get second chance

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September 21, 2004

Thomasville - From the age of 14, Jessica Ortiz spent the majority of her time strung out on drugs in her hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. She says, "Drugs and alcohol were a main part of my life, so if I didn't have drugs or alcohol, I didn't want to do anything."

Jessica especially didn't want to go to school. "I was always picked on because I was always known as the kid that was bad." Eventually she stopped going to school altogether.

"It just sucks. It was really bad," she says. But then, Jessica moved to Thomasville, and her mom encouraged her to go back to high school. She agreed and applied to Bishop Hall Charter school. They willing opened the door. Jessica says, "I enjoy going to school now. I don't get picked on. I start over new here, I don't get picked on. No one knows my past."

When she graduates from Bishop in the spring, Principal Rich Johnson will hand her the key to her future. Johnson says, "A diploma is the gateway to the rest of your life." A life she is now excited to live, a life that will have options.

She says, "I won't have to work at McDonald's." Rather, she plans to go to college and pursue a degree that will enable her to help troubled youth with pasts just like hers.

The Thomas County school system now has a 90% graduation rate, partly due to Bishop Hall, which allows troubled teens to work at their own pace.

posted at 5:22 PM by karen.collier@walb.com