POST FALLS - Taylir Symons finished her high school years on Tuesday - in the middle of the quarter at a computer.
Thanks to Gradpoint, an online credit retrieval program, juniors and seniors can work at their own pace to catch up or move ahead in their pursuit of a diploma. The program is now offered to students at New Vision Alternative High School for the first time this fall.
While Symons wrapped up her high school years without a traditional graduation ceremony, she said that doesn't bother her because two jobs and North Idaho College classes await. She is the first student at the school to graduate with the help of Gradpoint.
"I wanted to graduate last year, but it didn't happen for me," Symons said. "I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible and this was the fastest way to do it."
The timing of the program was perfect for Symons, who recently moved to the area from Eagle and only needed five credits through Gradpoint to finish high school.
"I had a lot of motivation, and I'm very good at working by myself," she said.
Symons reached her goal in just over a month by working on the classes from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day. There is no charge for the program.
"She came up here knowing she wanted to go to NIC and that she had some credits left to get her diploma," said Shari Symons, Taylir's aunt, who is also a teacher at Frederick Post Kindercenter in Post Falls. "She's been willing to buckle down and get it done."
Gradpoint has been popular in its first year at New Vision. Thirty-one students - a third of the school's population - are taking courses through the program.
New Vision Principal Dawn Mackesy said several Post Falls students in previous years chose Kootenai Bridge Charter Academy over New Vision because Gradpoint has been offered at the Coeur d'Alene school.
Students can work on Gradpoint classes at home or school, where a teacher is in the classroom to assist students. Mackesy said the program is intended to be compatible with the myriad of circumstances students have today.
"It is just one more way we are trying to keep kids in school," Mackesy said.
New Vision has a separate computer lab dedicated to the Gradpoint programs.
"The only real cost was the licensure," Assistant Superintendent Becky Ford said, adding that cost was nearly $15,000 and the computers were donated.
Ford said many students need the optional timeframe that Gradpoint offers.
"With today's ever-changing world, we need to continue to offer students as many options as possible for them to get their diploma and most importantly their education," Ford said.
Juanita Jernstrom, another New Vision student enrolled in Gradpoint classes, attended Post Falls High last year but made the move to New Vision this fall to expedite her pursuit of a law enforcement degree from NIC.
Jernstrom said taking online courses wasn't a difficult transition for her. The hardest part was that her little sister is now a student at PFHS.
"I wanted to be there for her, but other than that, it's turned out great," Jernstrom said. "I know what I want to get done and how."