By Sue Kiesewetter
WEST CHESTER - A year ago, Lakota West Senior Jake Scratch often missed school and was nearly a year behind on credits.
The West Chester 17-year-old is now looking forward to attending the University of Louisville on a cheerleading scholarship and will finish his coursework by year's end.
He attributes his turnaround to the Wokini alternative school program, which allows students to work at their own pace using an Internet-based curriculum to earn high-school credit. (Wokini is a Lakota Sioux word that means, "to see a new beginning or vision.")
Like Scratch, the program has changed since Butler Tech took over this year. It was renamed Options Academy Wokini and moved from a Cox Road storefront to the former Lakota administrative offices.
"It's a lot different than last year but it's for the better,'' said Scratch, who said he feels accepted and welcomed here. "Everyone's here to get their work done and graduate. I made up my junior year and half my senior year."
At Lakota West, he said he was ridiculed because he was the school's only male cheerleader. That doesn't happen at Wokini.
"They've made a determination that there's no such thing as a throwaway kid. That's heartwarming," said Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery, who visited this week as chairwoman of Ohio's Alternative Education Advisory Committee.
The committee oversees about $40 million the state has set aside for grants that are awarded to alternative schools. Wokini has been funded in part by such a grant since its March 2001 start.
"I love it here. Everybody knows everybody," said 17-year-old Katie Ellis.
The school's curriculum is aligned with Lakota's standards and the Ohio Graduation Test. Teachers are at the school to assist the students.
The program also offers a work program and requires students to take a teacher-taught Discover class that teachers life skills and learning habits. Students also participate in service projects.
And throughout the school the six "P" guidelines are posted - Prompt, Prepared, Polite, Positive Mental Attitude, Participate and Produce.
"I think we have a better curriculum, all academic areas covered and it's more structured," said Laura Keller, who supervises the program.
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