Cathy Decker/Correspondent


ALEDO -- High Roads Advantage has some new people at the helm to work with students enrolled in Mercer County’s alternative school. Students enrolled at High Roads range in ages from 17 - 24 and can receive services for up to four years if needed.


The school is located at 2004 SE 3rd St., Aledo and as of mid-September 2020 there were eight students enrolled. "There are eight students working on various aspects of the program," said Sabrina Earl, a newly hired director.


Classes started Aug. 24, with three individuals attending classes on a daily basis with the goal of completing their GED. There are an additional two students working from home on their GED and two pursuing vocational training. "One student is in a transitional period and plans on moving soon,"   said Earl.


Family Resources is the fiscal agent for the program. Earl said the program works with both the Mercer County and Sherrard school districts helping student as needed.


Earl said she was recruited for the director position by retiring general director Marnita Curry and Barb Milburn, coordinator. "I taught here 19 years ago," said Earl. "I just returned last June," she added. Besides being High Roads director Earl works with Family Resources’ foster adoption program of eastern Iowa.


Students attending classes sometimes are referred to the program by the school districts (both Mercer County and Sherrard). Sometimes they come in on their own. "We’re always accepting students," said Earl.


When first starting out a student is assessed by the staff to find out what his or her strengths and weaknesses are. "We do have an orientation to make sure there is a good fit," she said. Once enrolled the student becomes a Black Hawk College student. Students work with the staff to set up goals and work on the steps needed to complete the goals. "We want them to be successful at whatever their goals are," said Earl.


Also new to this year’s staff are Jeanne Canaday, student support and Candace Voss, instructor. Voss said she worked previously in the Davenport School system, first for 10 years as a special education teacher and "then I worked as a paraprofessional and in security for them."


One commonality the three have home schooling. "We found out that all of us home schooled," said Earl.


Besides academic subjects, students learn life skills, job skills and work with High Roads to find a job, when the student is ready. "I think this program has a lot of benefits," said Earl. One benefit for students is they get paid to attend school and go to their job training, she added.


High Roads is also plugged into comprehensive services like survivor services provided by Karen Arana, from Family Resources. Comprehensive services include 24-hour emergency crisis response; sheltering and housing assistance; medical, systems and economic advocacy; information and referral; counseling; education; support groups; therapy; safety planning and mentoring.


"We are part of the Mercer County Health Board," said Earl. "We may be providing in-school youth services, like Wi-Fi services and providing special education services," said Earl.  "The services may look different during COVID-19," she added.