Taking Over the City: Set For Success Steps Up Efforts

When it comes to Amarillo ISD’s Set for Success program, it is adult learners and not children who are the focus. Though the adult focus is an unexpected twist, it plays right into the district’s mission to graduate every child prepared for success beyond high school.

“Why would Amarillo ISD offer this opportunity?” asks Doug Curry, who leads AISD’s Set for Success efforts. “Because the benefit for children of families where mom or dad is getting a GED is that it completely alters what they expect of their child.”

Set for Success is an adult GED program originally offered in a few AISD schools. About a year ago, Doug and company decided to branch out of schools and look for organizations that would be a natural fit to offer the program, like a church or library already offering ESL services. Now with grant money to buy computers and software, Set for Success is diversifying even more and going where the demand is, with the newest GED opportunities available at the Potter County Detention Center and Affiliated Foods. “They have about 300 people who desire a GED at Affiliated Foods. With 25 computers and a little lab, 25 people at a time can go through this program at no cost to them and no cost to Affiliated Foods,” says Doug. “Our goal is there should be no adult in Amarillo who doesn’t at least have a high school equivalency. That is our minimum goal. Then, with all Amarillo College offers, it should be the next step and then the sky is the limit.”

“Why would Amarillo ISD offer this opportunity?” asks Doug Curry, who leads AISD’s Set for Success efforts. “Because the benefit for children of families where mom or dad is getting a GED is that it completely alters what they expect of their child.”

Doug is careful to note the Set for Success program doesn’t replace GED services already available through Amarillo College (AC). Instead, it fills in the gap, giving parents a choice when scheduling and financial barriers or a parent’s own comfort level gets in the way—all common threads Doug noticed when he was principal of San Jacinto Elementary School. “As we established good relationships with parents, it opened up the door to us to be able to ask the question, ‘Did you finish high school?’ And we found out a large number had not. The trick to this was finding ways to make it seamless and comfortable for them to get started, offer them total encouragement and be able to do it according to their schedule.”

Set for Success has seen its share of successes over the years. Doug tells the story of an immigrant who completed the program at Travis Middle School and continued on to AC and West Texas A & M University and is now working to become a doctor. Last spring, 27 people graduated in a small ceremony. “This is a family effort and to see a graduation with the kids watching mom or dad finish their high school diploma will make you cry,” says Doug. “There is nothing like seeing someone who came back and did this graduate. This is one of the hardest things to do because life is happening when you come back.”

With more new graduates all the time, grab some tissue and stand by because, says Doug, Set for Success is just getting started. “We think we can take over the city.”

 

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