Monday, June 25, 2012

Boston Globe: Mark Wahlberg trying again to finish high school

The Boston Globe has a new article about Mark going back to school to get his high school diploma.

Mark Wahlberg has succeeded in many roles: Academy Award-nominated actor, movie and television producer, rapper, and, of course, underwear model. But not the part of high school graduate.

Kerry Tondorf, headmaster of Snowden International High School in Copley Square, is helping Wahlberg change that.

After reading in a celebrity magazine that the 41-year-old Wahlberg, who dropped out in his freshman year, regrets never graduating, Tondorf sent him a letter three weeks ago telling him about an online credit recovery program offered at his former high school.

“He called me the next day, and he seemed very excited and serious about the opportunity,” Tondorf said.

Wahlberg will earn his diploma through the Accelerated Learning Academy at Snowden, which allows students to complete missing course work online at their own pace. Some students finish in a year or less, Tondorf said, while others can take longer.

Wahlberg has enrolled in his first class and has credentials to sign in online, Tondorf said. Students must log in at least once a week. They read course material and have to pass exams for each chapter, all online.

Students are one step closer to attaining their diploma after passing all the exams in the course, which will then appear on their transcript. After all state requirements are met, students will receive a diploma from Snowden, formally Copley Square High School, where Wahlberg would have graduated in 1988 had he stayed in school.

The program is part of an initiative that began in 2009 when Boston public schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson opened the Re-engagement Center as a way of getting students reenrolled in high school.

According to Boston public schools, about 1,200 students have enrolled in a diploma-granting program. At Snowden, 50 students have participated in the Academy and 15 of them have received diplomas.

“I think the headmaster’s letter was a bold and wonderful thing,” said Michael Allen, Snowden’s assistant headmaster and the program director of Accelerated Learning Academy. “People might say that he [Wahlberg] does not need a diploma, but I disagree. Anybody who values their kids or any other child would want to set an example.”

In 2010, Wahlberg became an ambassador for the Taco Bell Foundation’s Graduate to Go program, which works to raise awareness on high school dropout rates and provides programs and resources to keep students in school.

In a written statement to the Globe, Wahlberg said working with teens through the Graduate to Go program and “seeing their determination to get a diploma despite tough circumstances” inspired him to make the commitment to get his diploma.

“This is my chance for a real diploma, a chance to be a role model for my kids and teens across the country to stick with it and graduate,” Wahlberg said.

Wahlberg told David Letterman on June 11 that telling his children he never finished high school would be a tough conversation, but he was changing that.

More than 20 years after Wahlberg dropped out, he will start class while on the set of “2 Guns” in New Orleans later this month. Wahlberg told Letterman that he hopes to “blast through” his studies in the next six to eight months.

“It’s one of those things where I said, ‘I am going to make it happen,’ ” Wahlberg said.

As a teenager, Wahlberg spent time in jail “long enough to never want to go back,” he told Letterman. In 1988, Wahlberg was incarcerated for 45 days for beating a man with a stick.

Allen said Wahlberg was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to change his ways, which is not something that many high school dropouts get.

“He is atypical. If Mark’s brother [Donnie] wasn’t as successful, his past could have been a lot more detrimental to him,” Allen said. “This is a message for those who have given up. There is hope.”

In a written statement, Bob Fulmer, Taco Bell Foundation for Teens executive director, said he commends Wahlberg for his decision to attain his diploma.

“In spite of his many successes, his desire to earn a high school diploma shows just how committed he is to building awareness around America’s high school dropout crisis and recognize the importance of education for today’s youth,” Fulmer said.

In addition to helping Wahlberg get his diploma, Tondorf said, the potential to inspire others to return to school is the biggest take-away.

“He cuts across all lines. Young people know him. Older people know him,” Tondorf said. “This might make people stop and say, ‘Gee, he is doing it, and he doesn’t have to. Why can’t I?’ ”

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