Harding Learning Center offers alternative diploma options

By Brady Davidson | Business Manager

All Harding Learning Center students eligible to graduate in June will earn a diploma for the first time with no strings attached to MHS.

The diploma, called a Harding Diploma, is held at nearly the same stature as a high school diploma, making the programs appealing to high school students looking for something other than the traditional education model.

For Austin McDonnell, a senior, life at HLC has provided an opportunity to excel.  McDonnell left MHS because he felt HLC was more compatible with his learning style. Now he spends most of his day behind a computer, working at his own pace.

“You pretty much teach yourself in a way,” McDonnell said. “You do book work, and you just go up and ask questions if you need to.”

McDonnell is just one of nearly 175 students enrolled in five different programs now offered at HLC, including Destinations, Resource Link, CE2, GED preparation and the Teen Parent Program. Destinations, the most popular program according to HLC Principal Linda Vickrey, helps students learn at their own pace, creating an easier, and more relaxed atmosphere that she believes helps students learn better. She also said there is a smaller student to teacher ratio.

“It’s easier because each teacher only has 20 students, so they have time to slow down and make sure everyone understands the material,” Vickrey said.

One of the key aspects that makes HLC different than most high schools is an interactive learning experience that allows students to be in the community and work in exchange for credit.

“You get an opportunity during the school day to go out and work and get credit for it,” Vickrey said. “This is definitely helpful for the kids that don’t do well sitting in a classroom all day.”

Vickrey knows there are some negative perceptions of HLC and the alternatives it offers.

“Harding has always had the reputation of this school for the bad kids,” Vickrey said. “Some people don’t even think you can get a diploma down here.”

Those who are involved in HLC, however, do not let those negative perceptions bother them, knowing they offer an alternative for students to succeed and graduate from high school. Gary Martin, a teacher who has been at Destinations for 10 years, believes the misconception that only academically challenged students come to HLC is false because many intelligent students recognize the positive and productive programs that HLC offers and choose to attend.

“They can see that at Marshfield there are a lot of classes that really aren’t with their agenda,” Martin said. “They can come here and kind of focus in and do independent work that is more specialized.”

Martin stressed the idea that many students choose to go to Harding as a way forward rather than being stagnant in a system that does not work for them.

Leonard Foreman, a senior at Harding’s Destinations program, is one such student. He believes his overall experience at Harding has been very positive, and he appreciates the tight-knit community among students and staff.

“It’s pretty easy going; everybody seems to get along with everybody. We all pretty much look out for each other,” Foreman said.

Foreman said very high attendance rates among students, as well as a very involved community, are parts of the HLC programs that many do not see.

The HLC will celebrate this June with an expected record number of graduates who will earn their diploma, which is the ultimate goal of HLC.