By Rena Havner Philips
Seven months pregnant, Brianna Sandora knew it was going to be tough to graduate from Theodore High School the traditional way.
So, this past spring, she enrolled in a night school run by the Mobile Area Education Foundation and the Mobile County Public School System.
Known as EEOP, or Evening Educational Options Program, it’s one of two new programs that allow students to take classes on a computer, at their own pace, to earn credits to graduate.
The other is the Drop Back In cademy, which enrolls students who have already left school at campuses scattered throughout the county.
Brianna, 17, and students from any of the school district’s 13 high schools have been coming to B.C. Rain High School — located off Dauphin Island Parkway — for several hours, Mondays through Thursdays, even during the summer, to do schoolwork.
One particular day, Brianna was working on her 12th-grade English class, thinking about her life after her son, whom she’ll name Cameron, is born.
She plans to take care of the baby during the day and take classes at night until she earns the 11 credits she needs to graduate. She hopes to be done by January so she can walk across the stage at Theodore with her classmates to get a diploma.
If so, she’d be the first person in her family to graduate from high school.
“It’s my dream. It’s my life. It’s my baby’s life,” said Brianna, who wants to be a nurse one day. “I know it’s going to be very, very hard, but I’m trying.”
Last fall, the Mobile County school board approved the EEOP and Drop Back In Academies as alternative ways to earn a high school diploma. As a result, 30 students in the EEOP program and 61 in the Drop Back In Academy graduated in the spring.
“We have a culture in our school that all students can achieve,” said Jeremiah Newell, with the Mobile Area Education Foundation, who is running EEOP.
That program is set to move to Pillans Middle School this year while B.C. Rain undergoes renovations.
The Houston-based Alternatives Unlimited, which runs the Drop Back In Academies, is expanding from nine to 12 locations this year, ranging from Toulminville to Theodore, from Grand Bay to Down the Bay.
Students are in class five hours a day instead of seven. If they work fast enough, they can finish five courses in about five weeks, officials have said.
“If you are a student (who) could not function in a normal classroom setting,” said Keon Handley, spokesman for the Drop Back In, “we offer an opportunity for you to function in a small learning environment where you can earn a high school diploma and be successful.”
Both programs are free and are accepting applications for enrollment.
For more information about EEOP, contact the Mobile Area Education Foundation at 251-476-0002.
To learn more about Drop Back In, call 251-343-1392 or visit www.alternativesunlimited.com.