A new online program allows Missouri adults the chance to get their high school diploma for free through the state’s participating libraries.
The Missouri State Library – a division within the office of Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft – is partnering in the effort with a private company. Gale, a Cengage company, teams up with librarians and educators around the world to connect learners to essential content and improve learning outcomes.
The Missouri State Library is the first state agency in the nation to pilot the program to communities. Ashcroft says Missouri has more than 160 state taxpayer-supported libraries. Each Missouri library can determine their participation.
“It just runs back to that whole idea of how can we continue to use libraries to create greater opportunities for every one of the state? I think libraries are the prototypical, whosoever may. It doesn’t matter where your parents are from. It doesn’t matter your income level,” says Ashcroft. “It doesn’t matter what you look like, whoever walks through those doors. The people at the library are there to help – not to tell you what to do, but to provide whatever resources they can for you to make whatever you feel is the best decision for your life and giving people the opportunity to finish that diploma. It doesn’t mean that those individuals are smarter or that they were dumb before. There are a lot of smart people without a piece of paper on the wall and a lot of dumb people with a piece of paper on the wall, but it just opens up doors. It creates opportunities that allow them to be better and to exercise that choice. That’s what America is about. And government should be about giving people opportunities to do what that individual thinks is best as opposed to necessarily what other people are telling them what to do.”
Ashcroft says he believes the program will jump start people wherever they are in life.
“We’ve seen a real problem where people are just working jobs. Life’s situations get in the way and they have to drop out before they’d like to,” he says. “This was a great opportunity to allow people to finish up that high school diploma and, and not just get a GED. Although a GED can be helpful, but it’s even better when they can have a real diploma that they can show to prospective employers or when they want to go on to further their education.”
He says libraries are not just dusty shelves of books.
“Libraries, I believe, are really becoming our new town squares. It’s where everyone in society can find resources where we can get together, hopefully not be too partisan. And just remember those things that bring us together as Americans and, and as Missourians. And I am committed to a government, which creates an environment where people can be their best. And that’s what libraries are about – not mandating how you have to act, but providing information and providing resources and letting individuals make their own decision about how they can be the best that they can be. Missouri is great, not because of its government, not because of its elected leaders. It’s great because of its people, and I’m committed to resources like libraries that help people to be the best they can possibly be,” he says.
Missourians 18 years and older can apply. They have 24 months to finish the program. Enrollment is limited and requires a library card.
Ashcroft did not have information about the cost of the program. If the money dries up and the program is successful, Ashcroft says he is committed to providing funding to continue the program.
For more information, click here or call the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office at 573.751.4936.
To listen to the Show Me Today interview, click below.
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