A program that demands dedication more than perfection is giving kids the opportunity of a lifetime.


A program that demands dedication more than perfection is giving kids the opportunity of a lifetime.
It’s called A+, and it’s helping to open eyes about career possibilities for students who may not have thought about what they’ll do after high school.
Katelyn Ferguson is one of 371 Hannibal High School students enrolled this year.
“It will enable me to go to college,” said the 18-year-old senior. “I’m sure I would have figured it out somehow, but with money the way it is today, the budget is tight.”
Participants must have a grade point average of 2.5 or higher, maintain a 95 percent attendance rate and spend 50 hours tutoring other students.
In exchange, the state pays for up to six semesters at a community college or vocational school.
Ferguson has four sisters, two of of whom are in college now. But while her family doesn’t have much budgetary wiggle room, education is a priority.
“My mom won’t let me stay home (from school) unless I’m running a fever and I’m half-dead,” Ferguson said.
Kathy Riney has coordinated A+ for 11 years, and has seen participation grow.
“There are students who probably wouldn’t be able to go to college or even consider going to college if it weren’t for this program,” Riney said.
Ferguson plans a career in health care, perhaps as a physical therapist or in another role.
“I’ve always wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “I’ve always liked hands-on things.”
Ferguson is no bookworm, however. She plays basketball and is a member of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter.
She’s learned skills from A+ that will help her later in life.
“I discipline myself to do my homework,” she said. “If you do your homework, you’re not going to fail the class.”
The program teams participants with students who need help with their class work, either during the day or after school.
Ferguson works with middle school eighth-graders on math problems.
“I think it’s easy,” Ferguson said. “They’re willing to let me help them. They want help.”
“The tutoring is a plus,” Riney said. “It’s valuable for the students doing the tutoring. It’s valuable for the students who are being tutored. The teachers like having the additional help in the classroom.”
About a third of Hannibal High students participate, but Riney said all are welcome.
“I have a big range of abilities,” she said. “I have the ones who are top-notch and the ones who are struggling.”
Ted Sampson is a firm believer in the program.
He graduated from Hannibal High in 2001 not fully certain about the direction he wanted to take.
Sampson used A+ to take basic classes at Moberly Area Community College before transferring to Hannibal-LaGrange College and earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.
He’s now the Hannibal High dean of students.
“I recommend any student sign up for it,” Sampson said. “It was a good program and it worked for me. It saved me a lot of money and helped me get a good start on my education.”