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2015 September 13 - 02:02 am

Tenn. Students Get Head Start Toward College Degree

Early College High Lets Students Earn Diploma and Degree

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) — A day in Early College High is similar to a day in any other high school — with some major differences.

The 52 students in a freshly painted hallway at North Side High School are not only working toward their high school degrees, but also toward the chance of receiving an associate degree from Jackson State Community College or certification from Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

Kiya Garmon, 14, said her first week in the new program was an adjustment, including getting used to rigorous coursework and special privileges.

“My mother always told me you have a good opportunity at this school, because when she was in college she had to go through all four years,” Garmon said. “Instead, I only have to do two years.”

When they finish ninth grade, students should have nine hours of college credit. Students will spend their freshman and sophomore years on the school’s campus, but may take classes on Jackson State’s campus during their junior and senior years.

Students can choose one of four tracks: advanced manufacturing, pre-allied healthcare, computer information systems and teaching.

Phillip Warwick, program coordinator, said ultimately he hopes Early College High will be a separate high school. Already, numbers might increase as parents have called asking whether they can still enroll their children.

“We want to provide opportunities to children who might not otherwise think that they have the possibility or opportunity to go to college, so we have lots of first-generation college students,” Warwick said.

Students in Early College High don’t follow the same bell schedule as the rest of North Side. Instead, they transition as students do in college, heading to the next class without the help of a bell.

Gaining college credit takes precedence, but students are able to engage in a limited number of elective opportunities ranging from computer applications to instrumental music, choir and ROTC.

College-level coursework and high expectations also come with privileges. Sometimes students will be able to wear their favorite college T-shirt to school in lieu of a uniform. They also might hear from special speakers, Garmon said.

Garmon, who wants to be a military nurse, said she was nervous on her first day at Early College High. However, staff welcomed her warmly, she said, calming her nerves.

“My favorite part of Early College High is that we’ll be able to take these classes that will help us in our future, and will be able to look really good on my résumé,” Garmon said.

Adem Alsalman, 14, said he is interested in becoming a cardiologist. Early College High will help him on that path, he said.

“I might as well make it easier on myself,” Alsalman said. “I could get my degree and probably be a doctor by 26.”

Alsalman said his favorite part of Early College High is EAS time, which stands for Ensuring Academic Success. Students have a 30- minute block after lunch for remediation or studying.

Warwick said that time can include guidance activities from teachers, who can pull students if they need to re-teach a lesson or do intervention work.

Deborah Gooch, who teaches career explorations and computer applications, said students are excited with high energy. The program will help them talk about their goals and think ahead, she said.

“If they start early, they will be able to have a road map as they’re going along,” Gooch said. “They will be able to make better decisions, better choices, because they will have an idea of where they want to be.”

Information from: The Jackson Sun, http://www.jacksonsun.com


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