Since Andrew Turman dropped out of school two years ago, he figured out that he could not go far in life without an education.
Then Turman, 17, heard about the Ombudsman school in the county and the opportunity it offered for students to make up credits. He started attending in August.
Students that have fallen behind on credits in middle or high school or have been expelled for disciplinary reasons have a second chance to receive a high school diploma through the Ombudsman schools in Camden County.
Ombudsman is a private business contracted by Camden County Schools to run alternative programs, said deputy superintendent Gary Blount, who coordinates the system’s association with Ombudsman. This academic year is the third with the Ombudsman schools in Camden County.
“(Ombudsman) helped me get back on track for my education,” Turman said. “It definitely helps me learn quicker also.”
There are three Ombudsman locations in Camden County. The program’s St. Marys and Kingsland locations serve middle and high school students, and there is a Camden center located in Kingsland that serves high school students only.
“It’s for those students that need something that’s different,” Blount said, noting the Ombudsman hours allow for a more flexible schedule.
The St. Marys center offers three sessions, two for high school and one for middle school, each weekday. Morning and afternoon high school sessions are 3 hours and 20 minutes long and the midday middle school session is 4 hours and 20 minutes.
“We have kids that have to work. (One type of student) we have show up over there more often is young ladies that have had children,” Blount said. “It is more easy for them to stay in school there.”
According to Blount, there is room for a total of 177 Camden County students to participate in the Ombudsman school program. About 132 of those spots are allotted to high school students. Blount said that students learn core subjects, such as math, reading, science and social studies.
“These students are considered still enrolled in the school system,” Blount said. “They have to meet all the same testing requirements.”
Seventeen-year-old Dashawn Myers was struggling with classes at the high school and asked to go to the Ombudsman school.
“My grades did not really meet what I was aiming for,” Myers said.
In high school, he struggled with his math courses.“My teacher didn’t really try to explain it to me. Here, Mr. Woodward helps me a lot,” Myers said.
Ombudsman teacher Curtis Woodward said the one-on-one experience students receive at the school makes a difference.
“We can sit down and explain (subjects) to them,” Woodward said.
While teachers are available to provide assistance, Ombudsman students use software on computers to teach themselves.
“There is less pressure to get my work done. I learn at my own speed,” Myers said.
Ombudsman’s St. Marys Center director, Linda Pratte, said the alternative program allows those students that have struggled in the regular classroom a nurturing environment where they can work at their own pace.
“You have a lower student-to-teacher ratio,” Pratte said.
Myers and Turman both said Ombudsman has helped them focus and work toward their goals in life.
“Right now my short-term goal is to graduate and my long-term goal is to go into the military,” Myers said. Myers wants to be a commissioned officer in the Navy.
“I’m going to college next year in (Orlando) to become a game artist,” Turman said. “I was given a second chance to graduate on time.”