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5-19-21 — Step Up Program Inspires Learners to Reach Goals

May 19 2021 ~ Proudly dressed in his graduation cap and gown, 75-year-old Manuel Marin takes his final step across the graduation stage, and a “Step Up” in his educational journey. For Marin, today represents a milestone more than 50 years in the making. Today, Marin will receive his high school diploma from Olathe Public Schools as part of the district’s Step Up program for adult learners.

This tuition-free diploma completion program provides adult Kansas residents the opportunity to finish their educational journey, no matter where they are in life, through the flexible, self-paced curriculum. Marin is one of 105 adult learners from the Step Up Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 celebrating successful completion of their high school diploma and one of nearly 50 graduates who attended the traditional commencement ceremony on May 12, 2021. For all graduates, including Marin, this celebration represents the culmination of years of hard work and the opportunity to reach his fullest potential.

“Growing up as 1 of 7 kids, we were expected to enter the work force at a young age to help sustain our family, so I only got to grade 9,” Marin said. “All my adult life I didn't give school a second thought until the program Step Up was presented to me. We are fortunate to have a program like Step Up to help nontraditional students accomplish this important milestone in our lives. Thank you, Olathe Public schools. I am forever grateful.”

Kansas residents may enroll in Step Up if they are over age 18 and their high school classes have already graduated. Kansans with a GED certificate are also welcome. The self-paced program is designed to meet learners of all ages and backgrounds, and provides students the flexibility they need to complete the program on their own time.

“The flexibility in my case was huge because of my work schedule,” Marin said. “I started the program when I was 65 years young, and while it took me a long time to complete, it proved to me and my family that anything is possible if you’re persistent and are willing to work around any obstacles you encounter,” Marin said. “This diploma gives me the opportunity to further my education if I choose to and it is a good example to those around me. For those considering the program, I would tell them to "Step Up" and do yourself a favor by entering and completing the program. Your hard work will pay off!”

Step Up is fully aligned with Kansas curriculum standards and is designed to prepare students for post-secondary education or for direct job placement/advancement. For friends and Step Up graduates Cleo Mijares and Mercedes Estrada, that is precisely the “step up” they needed to achieve their career goals. Following graduation, Mijares intends to pursue future training as a nurse and Estrada plans to secure better employment with higher pay now that she has earned her diploma.

The Step Up program looks forward to enrolling its next class of graduates. To learn more or enroll, visit the Step Up webpage, contact Step Up program administrators by phone 913-780-7880 or send an email to stepup@olatheschools.org. The computer lab is located at the Mill Creek Campus, 300 E. Loula Street, in downtown Olathe, Kansas.