Phoenix program raises students from the ashes

Like the mythical phoenix bird, who dies and is reborn from its ashes, the Hays Consolidated School District is offering students a program to help them graduate despite the many challenges that may have hindered them in completing school in the first place.

The life of a public education student in the United States is comparable to a full-time job: students are usually at school by 8 a.m. and work late in the evening on homework and projects way after the final bell rings.

But for the students involved with the Phoenix program, somewhere along the way, something happened. For many, these young adults are forced to work to help support the family, or illnesses and injury prevent them from attending class.

“With Phoenix, students can work at their own pace around their schedule so they can graduate,” said Doug Agnew, principal for Live Oak Academy. “Life happens, and we understand that. But we help these students graduate so they can move on with their professional life.”

The Phoenix program is flexible. If students work in the morning, they can come in for night class, finishing assignments and receiving credits as they go. Without the program, there is a high probability these students would never receive their diploma at all.

Danny Preuss, Hays High School teacher and assistant athletic coordinator, has worked with Phoenix students for half a decade, using his summers to help students get the credits they need to receive a diploma.

Some of the students with Phoenix slipped through the cracks, Preuss said. The formula in a high school classroom typically does not work for these students. They need the one-on-one educational support, he said.

Last year, the program graduated 40 students who have since transitioned to the workforce, trade school or college.

“We work with these students on a personal level in a way that works for them and keeps them engaged,” Preuss said. “There is a sense of satisfaction for these students and they can see the progress as they continue.”

Wednesday, June 13, was the first day of summer school for the district students needing credit recovery or wanting to get ahead with their classes. Students from all three high school campuses make up the Phoenix program, where students work to receive credit for classes not yet completed.

Some students work on government assignments, learning the basics of the American political system. In another corner, the clicking of calculators can be heard as algebra equations are being solved, all while teachers roam the room and help students individually as needed.

The staff congratulates students with positive assignment and test results while words of encouragement motivate students during more difficult lesson plans.

“We will always be here for the students who want to graduate and we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure they’re successful here,” Agnew said. “That’s what Phoenix is all about. If you’re not giving up on you, neither will we.”

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