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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

A-Plus program beneficial to many

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Jeremy Couch, a 10th grader enrolled in the A-Plus Schools Program at Sikeston High School, tutors fourth grader Brittaney Kennard Tuesday afternoon
(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Every Monday morning for about an hour Sikeston High School Senior Claudia Beeson joins a preschool class for circle time, discussing things like the current letter of the alphabet the students are learning or what the weather is doing that day.

Each time Beeson meets with the students, she adds more time to her total of unpaid tutoring hours in the district and takes one step closer to receiving virtually a full ride to Three Rivers Community College.

And it's all thanks to a program called A-Plus Schools.

"I knew some other kids who were in the program and had a lot of fun with it," said Beeson, who lacks about two hours of tutoring to complete the program. "It's really not that hard to fit tutoring in and to meet the requirements."

Beeson is one of approximately 37 SHS seniors enrolled in the state program, created by the Outstanding Schools Act in 1993. Students who meet the requirements of the program are eligible for state-funded financial assistance to attend a community college or public vocational-technical school. The assistance covers the cost of tuition, fees and books.

However, with the recent state budget cuts projected in education, it looks as though the state will pay 50 percent of the cost of textbooks in the future, noted Mignonne Flagg, A-Plus coordinator for Sikeston Public Schools.

In order to be eligible for tuition assistance, students must attend an A-Plus school for three years, maintain a 95 percent attendance record, maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, perform 50 hours of unpaid tutoring in their school district and have a record of good citizenship.

Daniel Dial has tutored the preschool kids, but this year, the senior at Sikeston High School is tutoring junior high students whenever he can make it Mondays through Thursdays. He currently has about five hours of tutoring completed.

"I wouldn't really call it a burden because it's given me a sense of responsibility," Dial said about the program. "My parents encourage it, and it's given me something to work toward."

Although Dial knows he's going to attend a four-year college right out of high school, he's in the A-Plus program because he said it will look good on his resume.

"The way I saw it -- even though I'm not planning on using the program -- is that it keeps me working toward a goal and motivated. My main goal is getting those 50 hours of tutoring finished," Dial said.

Students can sign up as early as eighth grade and begin tutoring as early as 10th grade.

"It gives students another choice after high school," Flagg pointed out. "If they enroll, do the tutoring and graduate with the qualifications, they have the choice to use it. If they don't enroll, then they don't have a choice after graduation."

Students have up to four years after graduation to decide to use the program, Flagg said.

"Last fall, I had a graduate who was qualified for A-Plus but decided to attend a four-year school in Kentucky," Flagg recalled. "She called me and asked if the A-Plus program was still available. She said, 'Ms. Flagg, I didn't know how expensive college would be. Is there any way I can still get A-Plus money?' I told her, 'You bet!'"

Currently 11 of the 37 graduating seniors expect to use the A-Plus money, she said.

Even if students decided to go to a four-year school after getting their associate's degree, most of the credit hours will transfer, Flagg said. But she does recommend students who know they want to continue they're education at a four-year university to check with that school first to find out if the credits will transfer.

"The one thing I tell students is that plans change," Flagg noted. "Why not give yourself another choice after high school. Parents know and understand this. They know nothing is forever."

She continued: "Look at people in Sikeston who have recently lost their jobs. Five years ago people probably weren't planning for that. And what parents wouldn't be delighted to have the extra help?"

Over 200 schools in Missouri are designated A-Plus schools by the State Board of Education including Sikeston R-6 and Charleston R-1 school districts.

"A-Plus is a Plan B for everyone," Flagg said. "And everyone needs a Plan B."