“I’m more motivated to get out of here and graduate early because I really want to move on with life, and I felt like three years of high school was enough,” said former Northwood student Peyton Hill. “I ultimately made the decision when I realized that I could probably not go through with another year of high school because of the anxiety it put on me. Different people have different high school experiences.”
Many students have found alternatives to finishing high school at Northwood. Leaving school is a choice students make based on their personal needs and preferences. For the 2011-12 school year, 33 students dropped out of Northwood. In North Carolina in 2006, the graduation rate was 68 percent and it rose in 2013 to 82.5 percent.
Megan Amberg, who would be a junior this year, dropped out at the end of September and will graduate with an adult high school diploma from Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) in June.
“I dropped out because I started my classes late because my schedule was messed up, so I got into English late and I was failing that class two weeks into it. I needed a smaller setting where it was easier for me to learn,” Amberg said. “The teachers [I had] at Northwood don’t really spend a lot of time with you.”
Hill also planned to drop out and go to CCCC, but decided to take online classes through SAGE Academy to graduate early instead.
“[Principal Justin Bartholomew] told me that [having a CCCC diploma] is not the same as a Chatham County diploma, and universities don’t like it when you don’t have a county diploma, so that changed my mind,” Hill said.
Hill felt like she wasn’t getting the attention she needed from the teachers at Northwood.
“After my freshman year, stuff started to go downhill because my grades started to drop,” Hill said. “I felt like teachers weren’t providing me with the necessary attention, and I got so stressed out that I didn’t have any time. I had to get a job, so I didn’t have time for anything; I didn’t have time for the homework.”
For Amberg, taking classes through CCCC is very different from classes at Northwood and has changed her work ethic.
“I’ve gotten better grades, really good grades. I just push myself more because I know I have to get certain stuff done to graduate early,” Amberg said. “I’ve done a lot more than I would [have done] at Northwood.”
Leaving Northwood and graduating early satisfied Hill’s desire for a fresh start. She felt that high school was not for her.
“You think about your future, and you think about college and how you want to start over, meet new people. It just really motivates you to get out of here because sometimes the whole four-year experience is not for you,” Hill said. “When people say that high school should be the best four years of your life, that’s not true at all.”
Ashley Perry, a former student of Northwood, dropped out and attended CCCC.
“After dropping out, I went straight to CCCC in Pittsboro and registered to finish my high school diploma online. I [finished] after only three months and I received my adult high school diploma,” Perry said.
Despite dropping out, Perry is getting ready to graduate from college and pursue a PhD.
“Now I am on track to graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill with a bachelors in psychology at the end of December, a semester earlier than I would have if I did not graduate early,” Perry said. “I am then applying to the clinical psychology graduate programs to receive my PhD.”
Amberg believes that it is okay to drop out as long as you are doing something productive. She works five days a week and goes to school four days a week.
“If you’re going to drop out and not do anything, then that’s a problem, because why would you just want to sit around all the time?” Amberg said. “So the way I see it, if you’re going to drop out, do something. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, just do something.”
Dropping out is not for everybody. Although these students have shown success in their endeavors, according to dosomething.org, a high school dropout will earn $200,000 less than a high school graduate over a lifetime.
“Staying in high school and earning your high school diploma gives you the best chance for your future,” said guidance counselor Telisa Hunter. “It gives you more options after high school, whether you want to go to a two year or four year college or if you want to go get a job. It makes you more competitive in the workforce.”
It takes hard work and motivation to be able to do work on your own. Since Perry herself had success with dropping out, she offers advice to students considering the same path.
“I would tell other people who were looking to drop out to be sure of their decision; you need to be very determined in what you want once you do,” Perry said. “There may be more than one way to success, but all take a tremendous amount of work. But if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.”
— Jessica Clayton