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Twilight program helping students earn Regents diplomas

Photo from Erie 1 BOCES Website

A new alternative program is being offered for some students allowing them to break away from the traditional school setting. The program, called Twilight,  is offered through Erie 1 BOCES. In this Focus on Education report, WBFO's Eileen Buckley explores the program and learns how some high school students are earning credits toward a Regents diploma, while boosting graduation rates.

"I like the hours. We only have four classes and you we half a day every day for school," said Brielle Bolla, 11th grader from Kenmore East High School. She is among a growing group of of 10th, 11th and 12th graders who seeking career-ready and technical education, but still need to earn their Regents diploma to graduate.  There are about 20-students participating in the Ken-Ton Twilight Program.

Michael Capuana is the Erie 1 Boces Technical Education Director.

"And I think it gives students that might not fit into the traditional an option. It also gives students the opportunity to catch up if they need to through credit recovery options that we have," said Capuana. 

The Twilight program runs from 2:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. This has become a better option for some students who need to work and are struggling to get to their school for classes.

"Actually last year I wasn't doing good at all. I had to go to summer school. I had 60's and now, in every class I'm taking I have at least 80's," said Bolla.

"And when you see that success, does it want to make you try harder?," asked Buckley.

"Yeah, actually it does. It makes me wanted to try hard you know study more and do my homework and what not," said Bolla.

"These are students,  who for whatever reason, didn't enjoy traditional high school," said Mitch Tomtishen, Twilight principal. 

The program works proactively prepare an alternative pathway to graduation.          

"They come here, they get just what the need. They get their classes, they go home, they don't have to get up early. They get small class size. Most of my teachers have alternative experience, so they are able to differentiate the instruction to the needs and strengths of the students," said Tomtishen.

Twilight allows BOCES to providing its technical training and career ready programs, but education director Capuana says it still provides core curriculum, meeting the requirements of the State Regents.

"We go through being sure that our program and our instructors have certainly have the certifications necessary," said Capuana. "We follow the expected Regents pathway for students, and the design of courses and curriculum, and being sure that, again, we are reporting outcomes that meet expectations of the state in terms of Regents diplomas and achievement."

The Ken-Ton district provides multi-pathways for students to receive their education, but about a year ago the District was struggling to figure out how to improve its graduation rates.

Credit WBFO News file photo
Inside a school classroom.

Retiring Ken-Ton Schools Superintendent Mark Mondanaro said they discovered that teaming with BOCES could create a new way to graduation. "And we approached BOCES with collaborating -- hey look at your place sits there empty -- our place sits here empty -- the kids are graduating from either place  and could we do something together and bring them in maybe later in the day," said Mondanaro.

The District realized there was a larger than expected group of students already working, and a regular school day was not the best option.  Now, one year later, Twilight has been the right formula.

"And even if you want to go to a two-year school from this you can.  If you wanted to go the military from this you can. If you want to go to some chosen field you can," said Mondanaro. "There are multiply pathways inside even inside this pathway that will obviously, we think to a person, will make this person much more successful than any would have been if they hadn't graduated from high school at all."

"It's not a GED. It's not a local diploma. It's a legitimate Regents diploma," noted Twilight principal Tomtishen.  He said students in Twilight take four, 45-minute classes as part of her BOCES instruction.  "The fourth class is what we call credit recovery. This is the student's chance to make up a class that they have previously tried, but have been unsuccessful," said Tomtishen.

"The teachers help me on one-on-one. Since there is not many kids in our classes, they can talk to you individually," said Bolla.

Twilight is also partnering with the Harkness and Potter Career & Technical Center in both Cheektowaga and West Seneca. 

Program leaders are measuring the success the outcomes of those who are graduating with a growing interest in the non-traditional career ready and technical education options.  Still, the interest of college is there Ken-Ton student Bolla.  She said she's  now interested in going to college  -- perhaps to become a photographer.