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Safety Harbor Public Library Gives Adult Students Boost of Confidence to Pursue Their Dream Careers


Local Residents Complete High School and Earn an In-demand Career Certificate through Library’s Career Online High School Program

“I dropped out of high school at the end of my sophomore year,” recalls the now 34 year-old Jennifer Pawlowsky. “I worked in restaurants and cleaned houses to make a living. I was fine when it was just me, but when my daughter came along, I knew I needed to pick back up where I left off to make the best life possible for her.”

Like many Pinellas County residents who find themselves in a similar position, Jennifer’s first thought was to try the GED. “I didn’t just try the GED one time — I tried it multiple times!” she says. “Each time I found that it wasn’t flexible enough for my schedule since I had life’s responsibilities to balance.”

Jennifer was not alone in her struggles, according to Safety Harbor Public Library Director Lisa Kothe: “Our community members come in all shapes, sizes, colors and ages — you can’t tell who has or does not have a high school diploma simply by looking at them, and their reasons for dropping out vary. Because we saw this need, we were very excited to partner with Gale, a Cengage Company, to offer Career Online High School to county residents, through funding from the State of Florida.”

Career Online High School is a 100% online high school completion program developed specifically for adult students like Jennifer. Participants in the program not only earn an accredited high school diploma, but they also earn a career certificate in an in-demand career field simultaneously. Now in its third year, the library has seen eight students graduate. Five students are currently working on their studies, with two of those finishing up any day now.

“This wonderful program is another example of how libraries today change lives in a big way,” said Kothe. “If students can get through the first 30 days and carve out just one to two hours every day,10 hours a week on average, they can become high school graduates. With their diplomas in hand, graduates have more job opportunities, can advance in their current careers or continue on to higher education and be examples for their children. It’s a life changing accomplishment. We are so proud of them.”

Kothe is excited that recent updates to the program have helped to expand its accessibility. Specifically, now potential students who have passed any of the four GED subject areas at a Performance Level 2 or above (145+) can request that their GED transcripts be evaluated and applied towards their accredited high school diplomas. Career Online High School has always been a great alternative to the traditional GED, and now it’s an even better fit for students like Jennifer who have tried the GED and found that it didn’t work with their learning styles and lifestyles.

“I’m so much closer to beginning a passion-driven career thanks to Career Online High School and all of the positive support I received from my academic coach and the librarians along the way,” added Jennifer, who will be enrolling in a nursing program soon. Another key benefit of the program for Jennifer: The boost of confidence that it has given her. “I know I’m interested in healthcare, but I have so many paths open to me now. I really feel I can do anything I put my mind to. The program taught me that anything is possible and nothing is impossible — just look at that word: It can also be read as ‘I’m possible!’”

To get started with Career Online High School, Pinellas County residents who are 19-years-old or older should take a 15-question online self-assessment, participate in an in-person interview and pass a 2-week prerequisite course with a grade of 70% or higher. Click here to take the self-assessment or visit the library’s website for more information.


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