Library Helps Beach Mom Graduate from High School

Adults can earn a diploma with VBPL's Career Online High School


People told Rayshell Berry she'd never graduate from high school. The 24-year-old has proved those naysayers wrong, thanks to a free program offered by Virginia Beach Public Library.

Berry is a recent graduate of Career Online High School. To be eligible, you must be at least 20 years old, have completed eighth grade and have a Virginia Beach Public Library card in good standing. The application process involves a short essay, a two-week prerequisite course, and an interview with a library staff member.

Berry, who found out about Career Online High School through a Google search, recalls how a library staffer welcomed her to the program and answered her questions.

"She said, 'I don't know you, but I'm proud you're taking this step.' "

Although students have 18 months to complete their classes, Berry was able to finish in 12 months. Her husband encouraged her to keep up with her studies.

"My husband was always asking me, 'Did you get all your homework done?' " said Berry, who works as a food server in a senior living community.

It wasn't easy juggling responsibilities.

"You have a personal life; you have family and kids and other stuff going on," Berry said. But she encourages others who didn't finish high school to consider the program.

"It's one of the best decisions you can make for yourself," she said.

Growing up in St. Louis, Berry became pregnant the summer before her sophomore year. Because of family issues, she was on her own a year later, trying to care for her baby.

"I had to find my own place to live," Berry said. "I got to the point to where I was working because I had to pay the rent."

Berry got married and moved to Virginia Beach with her husband. She set high goals.

"A lot of people are like, 'Oh, I got my GED.' But I really wanted a high school diploma," Berry said. Virginia Beach Public Library helped Berry achieve that, and more. Her son, now 7 years old, and her 1-year-old daughter attended the graduation ceremony.

"I was excited," Berry said. "My son was excited, too."

The program's completion rate is 60 percent, according to Dotsy Harland, workforce reference librarian. VBPL added Career Online High School to its offerings in September 2016. Although VBPL purchases a limited number of student slots, the library hasn't had to turn away any qualified students.

Berry hopes to work as a pharmacy technician in a hospital, and is getting training through a program for military spouses. She has the support of her family and friends.

"They're proud that my past didn't prevent me from getting to where I am today," she said.

For more information about Career Online High School, visit the

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