When Vanessa Villarreal realized she might not be able to graduate on time from her Glendale, Arizona, high school after her son Adam was born, she knew she needed another option. Her boyfriend suggested Ombudsman Charter Metro, the alternative charter school he attended at the time.

Villarreal, who now works at the school as a graduate intern helping new students, enrolled in 2016 and earned her diploma the following year. She was able to catch up and graduate, she said, because of the welcoming environment, the school’s flexible schedule and its personalized approach to her education.

Ombudsman Charter Metro is part of a network of alternative schools that serve students who have fallen behind on credits, are parenting or caring for family members, have been involved with the justice system or have otherwise struggled in traditional high schools. The Arizona network recently awarded 380 diplomas, recognizing its largest graduating class ever.

One reason for the network’s success in getting students to graduation day is how easily students can enroll at Ombudsman. When students arrive to sign up, they immediately sit down with a counselor and draft a plan for what it will take to earn a high school diploma.

“The school was very welcoming” from day one, Villarreal said. When she arrived to enroll, someone greeted her at the door, and her adviser made sure she was comfortable with the learning program they were creating together.

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