Tishara Collins, left, assistant principal in charge of the Kent Alternative Placement (KAP) program, is joined by real estate agent Kristina Hyland Friday, Oct. 6. Hyland visited with KAP students as a part of a weekly community speaker program.
WORTON — This year, high school students in the Kent Alternative Placement program are receiving community support through a weekly guest speaker series.
That partnership is being fostered by Assistant Principal Tishara Collins, who is in her second year as the head of the KAP program at Kent County High School.
Collins maintains a focus on building a sense of community inside the program and a connection with the broader community beyond the school walls.
Each Friday last year, KAP students participated in a community building event such as playing games and sharing a meal.
"Last year, the last hour of the day on Friday would be some type of community fellowship," Collins said. "It built the community of the students and staff, which I think is very important."
Collins likened the effort to creating a familial atmosphere, which she then built on this year with the community speaker series.
"The staff and I put our heads together and looked at people we knew from the community who we thought the students would get something from," Collins said.
The speakers discuss their work and accomplishments and take time for a question-and-answer session with students.
They also offer important life lessons.
Last month, Kristina Hyland, an agent with Coldwell Banker Chesapeake Real Estate in Chestertown, came to the KAP program.
Hyland, who was joined by a loan officer from Main Street Home Loans, spoke about the importance of maintaining good financial credit.
Collins said that by having these community speakers visit the KAP program, students see their opportunities in life are not limited.
"Sometimes the students don't realize the options that they have," Collins said.
The KAP program is commonly thought of a placement option for students with severe or continuing disciplinary issues.
But that paints a very incomplete picture of the program.
Located in a modular unit on the high school's campus in Worton, the KAP program has two teachers and two instructional assistants. It can take up 15 students.
Students may join the KAP program voluntarily, taking advantage of the opportunity for an alternative learning environment. These students make up of the majority of KAP's enrollment.
Students with individualized education plans (IEPs) may enroll in the program as well.
"Disciplinary placements are a very small percentage of the group," Collins said.
She described the KAP program as being very structured.
Students check in and out. Distractions are reduced and cellphones are not allowed.
"The students are able to be here and focus on their schoolwork," Collins said.
Students who were falling behind in their studies at the high school have an opportunity to recover credits through KAP.
And Collins is quick to tout those students' successes.
KAP follows the high school curriculum. Students can also participate in programs at the high school like Career and Technical Education (CTE).
And there are field trips, such as a recent outing that saw the KAP students enjoy a day kayaking and learning about nature.
Collins spoke about how the KAP team maintains a safe space for the students.
"It's like a little community all to themselves," Collins said. "The students want to be here."