When Tucker Rutherford graduated from his homeschool program two years ago, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
In 2021, he enrolled in nearby Reading Area Community College (RACC) and began studying for a career in law enforcement. He’s on track to earn his associate degree in May. So early this year he applied to DeSales University, which has a transfer partnership with RACC.
That’s when Tucker encountered an unexpected snag.
Admission officials at DeSales emailed Tucker, asking him to provide additional information to confirm the validity of his homeschool diploma and his parent-issued transcripts. Specifically, they requested “documentation from the homeschool accreditation association” that could vouch for his high school credentials.
Something's Not Right
Tucker told his mother, Tacy Rutherford, about the university’s response. Tacy said the situation struck her as unusual for two reasons: The university’s request didn’t match her understanding of homeschool law, and the request presented an obstacle that Tucker might not have been able to resolve on his own.
“Tucker has always been so diligent in planning and handling his education,” Tacy said. Of the four students she and her husband Scott have graduated so far—they have seven more they’re homeschooling—Tucker was the only one who did not take time off before college to work or apply for internships.
Tracy recalled what Tucker said about his decision: “I know what I’ve wanted to do since I was four. I don’t want to take a gap year.”
Concerned that DeSales’ unwarranted questions about her son’s diploma might stymie Tucker’s career plans, she decided to seek help.
“I’m going to call HSLDA, because I don’t want this thing to get bigger,” she told Tucker.
After hearing from the Rutherfords, HSLDA Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff promptly contacted DeSales University on their behalf. He explained that because the Rutherfords had complied with Pennsylvania homeschool regulations, Tucker’s diploma constitutes an official document recognized by the state Department of Education.
“Tucker’s diploma has satisfied the requirements of the law, and under the law, it is entitled to all the privileges of any other high school diploma in the commonwealth,” Woodruff wrote.
DeSales officials responded within 20 minutes, and said they would be happy to move forward with Tucker’s application.
Tacy appreciates HSLDA’s assistance, because it will allow Tucker to focus on his dream of becoming a crime scene investigator or working for the FBI. She told HSLDA that, in keeping with the values she and her husband emphasize in their homeschool program, Tucker views his aspirations not just as career goals, but as a way to give back.
Preparing for Lives of Service
In addition to ensuring her children do well academically, Tacy said, “We give them as much time as possible to volunteer, to do community service.”
Tucker, for example, helps at a local food pantry, volunteers in church and at youth camp, and assists elderly in his neighborhood with lawn care and odd jobs in their homes.
Tacy said her son’s service projects stem from what she and her husband have taught all their 11 children—to be aware of the needs right where they live.
“We want them to see what’s around them,” she added. “We work really hard to say: ‘You can make a difference in your community.’ “