Tammy Marquez, 52, of Oxnard, a single mother of four, has seemed to have a bit of good luck most of her life, at least when it came to working without a high school diploma. Though she dropped out of high school her junior year at Chatsworth High School after getting pregnant, she was able to manage pretty well the next 30-plus years of her life. It wasn’t until her position doing wine club sales, where she worked for six years, was no longer available and she didn’t get one particular job because she lacked a high school diploma, that she decided it was time to tie up that loose end. She did so by enrolling in Ventura County Library’s Career Online High School.

“I signed up to get a GED but it was difficult to get to class,” Marquez said. “I heard about this online and jumped on it.”

Marquez, along with five others from around the county in caps and gowns, accepted her high school diploma in the Topping Room of the E.P. Foster Library on Tuesday, March 20, the first graduates of the program. The online high school, offered by Ventura County Library’s READ Adult Literacy Program in partnership with Gale, a Cengage Learning company, has been around for about two years and the program takes about 18 months to complete. Marquez plans to pursue an associate’s degree and work toward providing child care for people with special needs, drawing from personal experience of caring for her 20-year-old son who has Down’s syndrome.

For 15 years, Carol Chapman has been the coordinator of the READ Adult Literacy Program/ Community Engagement. When the California State Library offered an initiative to implement the online high school program, whereby the county library was able to buy and receive matching scholarships for students wanting to enroll, Chapman jumped on it. The library accumulated 35 scholarships, valued at $1,100 each; and currently there 29 students enrolled, six of whom just gradated.

“Interesting thing, when they sent us the original average age was going to be 27, it’s in the 40s,” Chapman said of those enrolled locally. “The majority have been single moms in their 40s.”

She spoke of students who struggled in school and would most likely struggle with this curriculum, too, but there are a variety of resources available.

“Those that struggled with math and algebra are probably still struggling but you have free help available and we can get you a tutor,” Chapman said. “Once in program, students are assigned a mentor online. One of our learners, the biggest help for him was only reading the text material and it also could be read to him. When reading it to him, he read along and it was easier for him to focus and he was grateful.”

Chapman, however, who worked a combined 30 years in elementary education and at community college, noted that many, even high school graduates, still really struggle with reading, coming in at about an average fourth-grade reading level. But her whole life has been dedicated to helping others who struggled with conventional education.

Along with scholarships and access to this online high school program, Chapman said that Ventura Adult Continuing Education has offered one free course to graduates of the program.

To learn more about Ventura County Library’s Career Online High School, go to https://www.vencolibrary.org/career-online-high-school; for the READ program, https://www.vencolibrary.org/special-interests/adult-literacy-read-program.