Two homeschool graduates, a continent apart, share the same basic dream—to pursue challenging careers that would benefit their communities by promoting safety and expanding knowledge.

James Crocco in Virginia is working toward an advanced aeronautics degree. Samuel Mielke is taking college courses while waiting to hear if he has been accepted into the Alaska State Trooper academy.

Both, however, had to ask Home School Legal Defense Association for help.

Aiming High

James Crocco’s parents contacted HSLDA after Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University admissions officers raised questions about the teen’s diploma.

But James refused to let the temporary setback deter him.

“I started exploring aviation when I was 14,” James said. That was when he attended an air show and saw jet pilots performing. He told himself, “I want to do that!”

Toward that end, he is beginning flying lessons this month through the Youth Aeronautics Educational Foundation.

His ultimate goal is even more ambitious.

“What I would really love,” he said, “is to become an astronaut.”

Thanks to his mother’s accelerated program, James graduated high school early at age 16. He had hoped to get a head start on the five-year master’s degree program in aeronautics at Embry-Riddle.

Instead, he found himself asking HSLDA attorney Dan Beasley for assistance.

Dan wrote Embry-Riddle officials, explaining that James’ homeschool diploma was issued in compliance with Virginia law.

He also pointed out that homeschool diplomas qualify graduates for federal student aid and enlistment in the military.

Ten days later, the Croccos contacted HSLDA to let us know that Embry-Riddle officials had conceded, and James had been accepted.

Police Career

Samuel Mielke, meanwhile, is still working through the process of applying for training as an Alaska State Trooper.

Unlike many students in his state, who study at home via public school distance learning programs, “we did it independently,” he explained.

However, the Alaska Police Standards Council insists that trooper candidates hold diplomas that are certified by the state or a local public school district.

“In effect,” Dan Beasley said, “the regulation excludes all graduates from parent-directed programs from demonstrating eligibility. Local school districts, as a matter of course, do not review and certify programs run by parents.”

This doesn’t seem to worry Samuel, though, who said he’s trusting God to work out the details because he views police work as an ideal way of fulfilling his Christian duty to serve others.

“I do like helping people, and it seems like this is a good way to do that,” he remarked—even if the people he’d be helping aren’t necessarily excited about interacting with a police officer.

Samuel also noted that the state trooper application process is a lengthy one. He has passed the written test and is submitting his homeschool diploma anyway—augmented with transcripts from Western Governors University, which he has been attending online.

He’s already about a third of the way toward a bachelor’s degree, which would count as basic qualifications for applying as a a trooper candidate.

Meanwhile, Samuel said he’s thrilled that he got to experience the benefits of homeschooling. For one thing, his flexible schedule allowed him to spend two winters working as a Senate page at the state Capitol in Juneau—which he loved.

He also believes his experience helped prepare him for college. “I was homeschooled,” he said, “so I’m used to studying on my own.”

Long-term Advocacy

Nevertheless, Dan Beasley insisted HSLDA will continue working toward legislation to correct this injustice in Alaska, drawing on our more than 40 years of advocacy on this topic.

In the first six months of 2020, for instance, HSLDA’s legal staff logged 397 queries regarding unfair treatment of homeschool students.

“We are committed to leveling the playing field for homeschool graduates,” he said.

He pointed out that homeschool advocates helped bring about changes to a similarly unfair situation in Wyoming.

In 2017, a state commission proposed amendments to minimum qualifications that would have made it even harder for homeschool graduates to be hired as peace officers.

Dan encouraged homeschool families to submit comments to the Wyoming Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission in opposition to the proposal.

Officials not only complied, but they also went a step further and changed the rules so that homeschool graduates may now apply for careers as peace officers on the strength of their diplomas.

HSLDA will continue fighting until homeschoolers everywhere are judged on their individual merits and accomplishments—just like other high school graduates.