She also has spent the past month sleeping in shelters and at a friend’s house.
She plans to move back to Idaho to live with her father this summer, but for now, she’s homeless.
Jessica, 17, wants to graduate on time but needs help. She got a bit in a summer school program at Crossroads Alternative High School.
“People here, they want to help you, they want to make you succeed,” she said. “It makes it a lot easier.”
The two-week summer program catered to people like Jessica. Students earned a half-credit toward graduation by taking a crash course in nutrition and personal finance.
The course was designed to provide lessons that may prove valuable outside the classroom.
“These kids need their life skills,” principal Bridgette Perrigoue said.
The summer program started in 2009 and had about 20 students. It doubled in size this year, as nearly 40 people learned the basics of money management and nutrition.
The district earlier this month received a four-year $100,000 grant through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to keep funding the program. The money also will support other aspects of the school.
Most in the summer program were homeless. Some had babies. Situations like that gave the students a fresh perspective on school.
Take Sierra Stroud for example. She said she dropped out when she was 15. Since then, she has worked full-time at a coffee stand and a retail store. She also had a baby.
Now she wants to get her diploma. She would like to own a business and hopes to set a good example for her 20-month-old son, Kayden Crumpton.
“If I don’t have my high school diploma, it’s going to be harder for me to convince him that that’s what you’re supposed to do,” she said.
For the past two weeks, Sierra and her fellow classmates began their day at 7:30 a.m. with journal writing. Teachers said the practice helped the students vent frustrations, getting everyone in the right mindset to learn.
Then the lessons began.
Students studied acids, bases and pH levels as they made bars of soap. They learned about the food industry and designed their own healthy menus. They also were sent daily to a nearby grocery to buy food on a $2 budget.
“In life, you don’t always have just an open-ended checkbook,” teacher Cathy Wagner said.
After returning, they pooled their ingredients to make casseroles, sandwiches, soups and more.
“We’re very hands-on,” teacher Tiffany Villahermosa said.
The approach connected with students like Dane Ulrich, 18. The mohawk-wearing teen dropped out sophomore year. He worked a bit before deciding this spring to try the alternative high school.
Now, he hopes to graduate in 2011.
“I don’t mind waking up in the morning and going to do this, because it’s fun,” he said. “I’m actually learning.”
Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455, email@example.com.
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