Some tell you that the high school days will be the best of your life. But for some students, the high school experience simply does not work for them. Pathways To The Future gives students another choice in their education.

Pathways is an alternative education program offered to students who have dropped out of high school, or who are at risk for failure in their regular school environment.

“Some kids have needs that cannot be met by the typical high school,” said Pathways coordinator Althea Pendergast.

Pathways is in its twentieth year and is affiliated with Lake Land College in Mattoon and the Regional Office of Education # 11. It has six sites where classes are taught, one of which is here in Shelbyville. Classes are currently held in the basement of the post office.

Shelbyville High School Principal Kevin Ross explained that having a site here in Shelbyville, where it is accessible to students, is a big advantage. He said with the drop out age being 17, these students need a place to go and it’s easier for a parent to convince a child to drive a couple of blocks rather than drive out of town to another site.

“With our student population, there is a need for a site in Shelbyville,” Ross said. “It’s a place to go to earn credit in a one-on-one setting.”

While at Pathways, students, who must be between the ages of 16 and 21, take courses that allow them to receive high school credit or prepare them to take the GED exam.

“They (the student) graduates from their home high school,” Pendergast said.

Pathways offers two sessions for classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

“If a student has transfer credit, they usually go all day. GED students go half a day,” Pendergast said.

Pendergast explained that students are referred to Pathways by their school district, and students must reside in the Lake Land College district or the Regional Office of Education # 11. The student and parents are contacted and the program is then explained to them.

Besides offering credit to graduate or to earn a GED, students receive a variety of other services, such as individual and group counseling, job-seeking and job-keeping skills, academic counseling and vocational counseling.

“We try to connect everything we do back to the real world,” Pendergast said. “We have a hands-on approach that is more than just worksheets.”

Pendergast explained that the Pathways experience differs from that of high school. One major difference is the size of the classes.

“The maximum for each session is 12,” she said. “This allows us to get to know the students personally, and since we are so small, we may identify specials needs that no one has caught before.”

Students also work at their own pace.

Students also have the option to return to their high school and finish their education there.

“Most of our students who decide to come to us stay with us,” Pendergast said. “But students who go back have really good success rates.”

Ross said that he sees a variety of what students do, from finishing up at Pathways to coming back to SHS. Some decide to get their GED when they are of age.

“Students can’t get their GED until their class has graduated here,” he said.

For more information about Pathways, call (217) 235-2222, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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