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Hayward Public Library Helps 34-year-old Resident Expand His Career Options

Adult student earns his high school diploma on his own time and at his own pace through Career Online High School

John Fonua came from a big family that was used to making a living with its hands. Since his family didn’t prioritize education, John didn’t realize that not having a high school diploma would close doors for him, so he dropped out of school right after his freshman year.

About two decades later, John discovered the Hayward Public Library Literacy Plus program. He quickly realized that this organization could help him finish the schooling that he had started as a teen, a goal that was especially pressing since some difficult years had taught him that “education is the only way to become successful in life.”

The library’s Literacy Plus program aims to provide for learners’ emerging literacy needs through goal-directed, learner-centered tutoring. This library initiative is dedicated to helping break the cycle of intergenerational illiteracy in the Hayward community for adults and children, and to this end, it promotes reading and writing competency, provides a computer learning lab, recruits and trains volunteer tutors, supports community outreach and obtains general and financial resources for learners as needed. Since Literacy Plus was founded in 1985, it has helped over 4,500 adults learn to read and write or improve their literacy skills.

One way that Literacy Plus has driven these impressive outcomes is through Career Online High School, a 100% online high school completion program that it began offering in 2016 through a partnership with Gale, a Cengage Company, and the California State Library. Through funding from Literacy Plus Council, scholarships are granted for the online program which can take less than 18 months to complete. And, is a perfect fit for Hayward residents like John since it allows participants to learn at their own pace while gaining specialized career skills in one of ten high-growth, high-demand career fields.

“In Hayward, 20.5% of our residents who are 25-years-old or older do not have their high school diploma,” shared Amber Bell, Acting Literacy Plus Program Coordinator. “Before it began offering Career Online High School, the library had no central place to direct residents looking for guidance on how to finish their high school diplomas.”

Now, the library sends these residents straight to Literacy Plus so that they can benefit from the free and accessible second chance that its Career Online High School offers. “Learners have really appreciated the format of this program,” added Amber. “Many have had negative experiences with traditional classrooms and didn’t even realize that it was possible to learn from the comfort of their own home until they found our program! The most rewarding part of my job is being able to witness these learners finding their own path to achieve their goals.”

So far, Literacy Plus has awarded 12 of 20 available scholarships to residents who completed a 15-question online self-assessment, passed a 2-week prerequisite course with a grade of 70% or higher, and participated in an in-person interview. The organization plans to celebrate the accomplishments of its first two graduates — John being one of them — when Hayward’s 21st Century Library opens in fall 2018.

John isn’t waiting for his graduation ceremony to start spreading the news about just how great the Career Online High School program is. He recently gave a speech to a group of students about why education is important and how educational goals are attainable no matter your race, age, religion or gender. That was an especially important point to make in Hayward since the city of 150,000 has been ranked the 3rd most linguistically and ethnically diverse community in the U.S.

He also shared his experience as a high school dropout and adult learner at a Hayward Rotary Club meeting. “I’ve learned that the more you know and understand how life works, the more opportunities are available to you,” said John. “I’m excited about being in a position now where I can better my own life and further my education goals through attending college, and more importantly act as an example to students of all ages as well.”

To get started with Career Online High School, click here or visit the library’s website for more information.

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