Educators ask lawmakers to help 21-year-old students set to age out of high school

While many students graduate high school at age 18, many do not. They follow their own path, and life can get in the way.

Christina Niessen, a high school senior, knows that and is eager to graduate after a tough year.

"It’s been definitely stressful," she shares.

Niessen will be 21-years-old next month. If she doesn’t achieve all her high school credits to graduate, she’ll age out of the system.

"It can be intimidating with the deadlines of school in general, but also the added pressure of being how old I am," she said.

Niessen is one of likely hundreds of students facing this dilemma. Educators say the issue is made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We can’t forget those students who are literally going to run out of time, that time is running out for them, that they can’t have those opportunities next year unless we can make some changes," said Tracy Quarnstrom, the director of Trio Wolf Creek, a distance learning charter school.

She’s asking lawmakers to approve general education funding for these 21-year-old students for an additional six months to a year to allow them to finish up.

"There’s a reason that they are still in school at 19, 20 and 21," she said. "Because they have a desire to get that diploma and have that success, so we want to support them in every way possible."

Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch, says grace has been given to so many other groups and situations. She says these students should be no exception.

"We’ve done a ton of things to help different groups of people throughout this pandemic and it’s the right thing to do," she said. "Let’s give them that little bit of time they will need to be successful."