NEWTON, NJ - Not all teenagers make it through middle school and high school in time to graduate with their class.  The free Skylands Alternative High School program at Project Self-Sufficiency is designed for teens and young adults who are no longer enrolled in school or those who have graduated from high school but who may be struggling with literacy. 

The Skylands Alternative High School program helps guide participants through GED testing, job training, and placement at a work site, in college or the military.  Once a participant is accepted into the program, they can expect to undergo a battery of assessment testing followed by help with attaining their GED, life skills training, pre-employment training, and other remedial education efforts. 

Childcare, lunch and limited transportation assistance is available to all participants.  Upon completion of their education, participants will be placed in internships, followed by placement in paid employment, college or the military.  Follow up support will be provided by Project Self-Sufficiency staff to ensure that the new employees are faring well in their new positions.

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Eighteen-year-old Kristle Licata chose to enroll in the Skylands Alternative High School program after relocating to Newton from Florida.  An injury from her stint as a cheerleader coupled with family issues led her to drop out of her Florida high school during her junior year.   She is currently preparing to take the GED test and is appreciative of the small class sizes at the Skylands Alternative High School program.  “The one-on-one attention you get here makes this program so much better than a class of thirty kids in high school.  This environment is very homey and you get the attention you need,” explains Kristle.  “They explain things and you don’t have that weird feeling that the other kids will make fun of you if you ask a question.”

Approximately 7 percent of high school students will drop out of school before reaching grade 12, according to the U.S. Department of Education.  Students from low-income families are almost twice as likely, 13.8 percent, to drop out of high school as their higher-income peers.  There are many significant reasons teens drop out of high school before graduating, ranging from peer pressure to lack of parental support to failure to address special needs.  A feeling of boredom or lack of engagement at school is another common problem.  While the reasons for dropping out are varied, it is predictable that those without a high school diploma will fare worse economically than their peers.  Without a diploma, they will have a difficult time finding meaningful work.  High school drop outs will earn less, have poor health, live in poverty and have children at an early age, many of whom will also grow up to be high school drop outs, according to EduGuide, a non-profit organization that works with schools and other non-profit groups.

As part of her participation in the program, Kristle obtained on-the-job experience working at a local business, filing, handling invoices, taking orders and filling stock.  “I like to interact with people,” noted Kristle who admits to feeling shy at times.  “Getting out there and being able to talk to other people is good for my future.”  Once she has her GED in hand, Kristle is determined to pursue her education with the goal of becoming a make-up artist in the theatre.

Eligibility guidelines for the Skylands Alternative High School program are strict.  Participants must be local residents between the ages of 16 – 21, who fall below the federal poverty guidelines.  Male participants are required to register with the Selective Service System in order to qualify.   

Project Self-Sufficiency is a private non-profit community-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families residing in northwestern New Jersey.  The agency’s mission is to provide a broad spectrum of holistic, respectful, and comprehensive services enabling low-income single parents, teen parents, two-parent families, and displaced homemakers to improve their lives and the lives of their children through the achievement of personal and economic self-sufficiency and family stability.  Since 1986 Project Self-Sufficiency has served more than 20,000 families, including over 30,000 children. 

For assistance in applying for the Skylands Alternative High School program, or to find out more about the other programs and services available at Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-940-3500 or visit www.projectselfsufficiency.org.