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Several students graduated through the Citrus County Libraries Career Online High School Diploma/GED program recently. Pictured with the graduates are library staff members involved with the program. Front row are graduates Ryan Wisniewski, Monica Solano, Jessica Krook, Omar Ramirez, Lacey Wright and Anthony Delmar with April Fraizer, literacy services librarian. In back are Susan Mutschler, library manager and proliteracy certified trainer, and Eric C. Head, director of the Citrus County Library System. Not pictured are graduates Joni Curless and Ganesha Narahari.

It’s never too late to get your high school diploma or a GED (Graduate Equivalency Degree.) Both are offered to future qualified adult graduates, age 19 or older, through the Citrus County Libraries.

In 2016, the Citrus County Library Systems began a Career Online High School (COHS) program, where if qualified, students can earn a high school diploma and also get a career certificate.

Graduates complete the program anywhere from four months, if they have other high school credits, to 18 months. Candidates must also have a library card in good standing.

In addition, they get a certified coach to help them reach their goal and graduate.

It’s an adult program: Participants must be 19 and have attended some high school, even as a freshman. Thus far, the program has seen graduates from 19 to 63 years old.

The library offers limited scholarships for students who qualify that also want to advance their career opportunities while preparing to enter the workforce.

All applicants must complete the online self-assessments, a prerequisite course and an in-person interview to be considered.

Susan Mutschler, manager of the Homosassa and Coastal Region Library and a ProLiteracy certified trainer, initiated the Adult Literacy Services program back in November 2008.

“The Career Online High School initiative, while it’s our newest component in the services we provide our adult learners, is truly most vital,” Mutschler said.

“While COHS provides mathematical- and language arts-based lessons, more importantly, it provides life-based lessons,” she said. “Our COHS students are pleasantly surprised that in addition to core lessons, they are learning how to get in touch with their own values, discover their individualized strengths and weaknesses, all while increasing their own values while increasing their professional knowledge and employability skills.

“COHS really helps adult learners to self-actualize through the provision of a total student success package,” she added.

The Florida State Legislature provides the funding for this adult literacy program.

“We were extremely pleased to see the State Legislature provide funding for this amazing program for public libraries all over Florida. It’s been a great benefit to Citrus County and we are excited to be entering a second year of offering scholarships,” said Eric C. Head, director of the county libraries.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for those that are ready to make a real positive change in their life. All they need to do is call the library and get involved,” Head said.

On Nov. 2, 2018, Citrus County Libraries graduated several students getting their COHS degrees, and some getting their GEDs, at the Old Historic Citrus County Courthouse in Inverness. It was the first time graduates donned caps and gowns for a traditional commencement ceremony complete with the processional, keynote speakers, conferring of degrees and turning of the tassels.

Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution presented the Pledge of Allegiance and Eric Head welcomed everyone. Mutchler also spoke.

April Frazier, literacy service librarian, introduced the keynote speaker, graduate Monica Solano, who talked about why she joined the program and how important it was to her.

In essence, Solano said, “When I learned about COHS, I realized that I could literally do anything. It proved to me what I could do in my life and there were people who would stand behind me.”

Frazier referenced the COHS saying, “This program works in ways that the GED can’t. It offers each participant not just an accredited high school diploma, but also a chance to begin a career and to change their world. The COHS program works with adults’ busy schedules and thanks to scholarships, it works with their budgets.”

This is a no-fail program where students get all the help and tutors they need to finish with a degree.

“Public libraries have been adjusting to the needs of their communities for decades. That is part of what makes them such an anchor institution,” Head said. “Education and lifelong learning is another great example. We have continued to evolve, not only with technology, but ensuring the ones that need it most have access to the resources and help they are seeking.”

To find out more about the programs, call 352-765- 4785 or go online at COHS@CitrusLibraries.org.