Attend a Rockford School Board meeting early and you’ll likely have to wait on the board to emerge from executive session, a time when board members discuss, among other things, student truancy and discipline.

The names of some of those students were heard again tonight in the district’s board room, but this time for all the right reasons. The Rockford Innovative Learning Center held its fourth annual Honors Night at the Rockford School District Administration Building and praised the efforts of its 18 graduates.

In addition to academic achievement awards, the students received their high school diplomas.

The Rockford School District’s Innovative Learning Center uses the Ombudsman program, an alternative curriculum for middle and high school students who have dropped out or who are at risk of dropping out of school.

Eric Brasel, RILC’s director of college and career planning, said Ombudsman educates non-traditional learners by incorporating a blended learning model.

“It’s teacher instruction with paper and pen work but approximately 70 percent of their work is done on the computer,” he said.

The curriculum is aligned to Common Core, Illinois Learning Standards and prepares students for state and national tests. The program also offers students flexible hours to accommodate those who work, have children or other adult responsibilities.

More than 200 students are enrolled in RILC where the goal is to intervene before the students fall too far behind academically and drop out.

“They get a lot of one-on-one instruction here,” said Sue Fila, RILC vice president of operations. “We offer them support in finding jobs, volunteer activities, and we still follow all the guidelines for Rockford Public Schools.”

Jared Marcum, 19, of Rockford, was at risk of dropping out of school. He attended Guilford High School his freshman year before deciding to enroll in the RILC program his sophomore year.

“Honestly, without this program, I probably would have dropped out of school already,” he said. “It helped me out a lot with personalization. I can work at my own pace rather than having certain set deadlines. Here, they have guidelines, not deadlines. They just help you along.

“If you get something in at the end of the year, so be it. You don’t get penalized. You can work at your own pace and graduate early if you want.”

Marcum, who received several awards, including one for Presidential Academic Excellence, said he plans to participate in Guilford High School’s graduation ceremony this spring and enroll at Rock Valley College next spring.

While this was the fourth end-of-the-year award ceremony for RILC, the cap-and-gown graduation ceremony was new this year, thanks to the suggestion of RILC student Kaylee Swan.

“We deserve it,” she said. “We worked hard for it.”

Students recognized at Rockford Innovative Learning Center’s 4th Annual Honors Night:

Courage to Grow Award: Passion Britton

Citizenship Award: Terry Brown Jr.

Excellence in Dedication Award: Kaylee Swan

Academic Perseverance Award: Jared Marcum and Dontaye Banks

Presidential Academic Achievement: Dontaye Banks, Kiana Rowell and Kaylee Swan

Presidential Academic Excellence: Megan Lawson, Jared Marcum and Samantha Shoemaker

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