FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. -- Fayette County has one of the highest graduation rates in the state, with 90% of its students finishing at its traditional high schools in four years. Their secret?
The district says attitude -- attitude of the parents that enroll their students, attitude of the staff that works closely together to help students succeed, attitude of the district to create programs that help students who don't fit in the traditional classroom model, and the attitude of students who see high school as a positive step toward their future.
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"They're more than teachers to me. They've become like friends," said Maria Cadenhead, a senior who transferred to Fayette Open Schools to get more one on one attention.
"I have like ADD and stuff. So I thought it would help me focus more and stay on track," she said.
It has. Cadenhead was once concerned about failing math. Now she's taking on chemistry with confidence. Cadenhead says she's just been accepted to Auburn and credits the teachers and Open Schools for helping her improve her grades.
"If they feel like you're not understanding, they're not going to let you leave their side. They're going to make sure you understand and that's important," Cadenhead said.
Fayette Open Campus is a school designed by the district five years ago with the belief students like Cadenhead could, and would, excel with more attention, time and a flexible learning environment.
"Students get recognized by first name and last name on a daily basis. We try really, really hard to pay very close attention to them. We try to get to know their personal issues," said counselor Kaye Eubanks.
The school receives names from guidance counselors each semester of students falling behind. The reason ranges from work demands to bullying. For Joshua Sebastian, it is health.
"I was diagnosed with eight diseases in 7th grade and that's not easy for a seventh grader to handle," said Sebastian.
Sebastian was more than a year behind when he arrived at Open School. He's now set to graduate on time. The campus is open until eight most school nights, allowing students that need to work or have special needs, to catch up and learn at their own pace.
But whether it's an open campus or a traditional school, the district says it's what happens before the students get there that makes the difference.
"It's parents caring. They get involved with the teacher, so a lot of teacher communication, emailing," said Eubanks.
The district says it can help students do their best, but it's up to parents to motivate their teens to want too. It's a value Sebastian says his parents gave him from an early age.
"I just knew I was going to graduate. I'm going to college. That's just what I'm going to do. It wasn't really a question for me," said Sebastian.