Arlington's Open Doors Program gives students a second chance

ARLINGTON, Wash. -- For some kids, life just isn't as easy. But instead of shutting the doors when it comes to getting a GED or high school diploma, this program in Arlington is opening doors for a better life.

High school junior Nazrelli Macias definitely has her hands full as a young mother of a 2-year-old.

“Sophomore year is when I got pregnant with her. And so I finished my sophomore year, and like junior year was like, 'Oh my gosh. What am I going to do now?'" she said.

With a beautiful daughter named Eliana to take care of, continuing her education came into question.

“Since I had her, she was a newborn and it was going to be difficult to go back to school,” said Macias.

That was until she found out about the Open Doors program at Weston High School in Arlington.

“I was so thankful that I found this program, because if I didn’t I don’t know what would’ve happened,” she said.

The program started last fall with one student. Now, there are more than 50 students in the program.

"It’s all about them taking their ultimate responsibility for their education,” said Open Doors case manager Rene McArt.

McArt serves many roles within the program.

“I’m kind of a combination cheerleader, support person, nagger in chief. I’m kind of the person who beats the bushes when it comes to students needing resources,” said McArt.

Each student is different, and each program in Open Doors is tailored different to each student.

To participate, a student needs to be between 16 and 21 years old.  Much of the coursework for either the GED or diploma program is done online. For Open Doors, students must also complete about 15 hours a week of study time, and come into school to meet with Rene once a week.

“I know things about them and about their lives that go beyond what a normal classroom teacher would know. But it’s designed that way so that I can facilitate getting rid of the barriers that have kept them from being successful,” she said.

For recent graduate Kailey Carlton, her barrier was social anxiety and depression.

“Feeling invited was definitely a big eye-opener for me,” she said. “Getting out of bed in the morning was a battle in itself. Knowing that you’re going to go to school and be nervous, and you’re worried about what all the other kids think."

But with the help from Rene and the program, Kailey overcame that obstacle and eventually graduated with higher grades.

“The environment is nice and calm. It’s quiet. You just come in, you sit down. You do your work. It’s definitely more of a relaxed environment for sure,” she said.

In such a short period of time, Rene and the Open Door program has given hope to those who thought there wasn’t any.

“I worry about them every night. I take them home with me. They text me on the weekends at 2 in the morning.  But they’re important people to me,” said McArt.

Before a student signs up to Open Doors, Rene has them sign a contract that basically says they are accountable for their own work and getting it done. Parent interaction is actually minimal because the program is tailored toward the student. Open Doors also collaborates with Workforce Snohomish to provide job opportunities for the students.

Open Doors is available all throughout the state.