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Home > Press Page

Wednesday, June 30, 2010— Seven men and one woman recently arrested for non-violent crimes are set to be introduced today as the first graduates from a virtual high school program developed at the Cook County Jail, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced.

The graduates, ranging in age from 17 to 21, include those who have bounced between foster homes, are young parents themselves and those who are mentoring younger students, including one who obtained a college scholarship to study in the fall.

Ceremonies are set for 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 30 at the 1st floor interview room in the lobby of the Criminal Courts building, 2650 S. California Ave.

Many of those in the program were only a few credit hours short of obtaining their high school diploma when they were arrested. Instead of limiting them to only being able to obtain a General Equivalency Diploma, Dart partnered with Cook County Judge John Kirby, Chicago Public Schools officials and others to develop an online program which will allow each participant to instead obtain a diploma from the last high school they were enrolled in.

The online program, operated by Aventa Learning, began in February 2009 in classrooms at the sheriff’s 31st Street offices. It is administered by state-certified teachers and sheriff’s staff and follows a state-approved curriculum. There are now 50 students enrolled, all at various stages of their criminal proceedings, with four more set to graduate in August.

About 15,000 people ages 17 to 21 leave the Cook County Jail every year and less than half have a high school diploma. Participants in the new program are selected by judges for various alternative sentencing programs. In addition to their class work, they are required to check in with sheriff’s staff once a day, while also agreeing to drug tests and to partake in behavioral and life skills training courses.

Those going through graduation ceremonies on Wednesday are:

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