Examples of school districts providing high school students with the opportunity to take college courses have been steadily increasing the past couple of years.
At Greater Johnstown High School, officials have made it a priority to get students involved with college courses.
This year, nearly 200 students will enter college early through Pennsylvania Highlands Community College’s Accelerated College Education Program, said Michael Vuckovich, high school principal.
“Students studying everything from psychology to computer to Spanish can earn high school and college credits simultaneously, and through generous community support, many of these credits can be earned for free,” he said.
The program is expanding each year and for the first time, this year’s class of freshmen will be able to graduate from high school with an associate degree in general studies from Pennsylvania Highlands.
The college provides scholarships for students and the community has been contributing funds to make grants available for students.
The school district also has partnered with Pitt-Johnstown, Mount Aloysius and Clarion University for dual-enrollment programs, Vuckovich said. Plans are to expand the number of courses being offered by those schools, he said.
Students are grateful for the program.
“I like it,” said Mikita Hill-Cashaw, a sophomore who started taking college courses as a freshman.
“I like the idea of how you can take college courses while in high school. It knocks out two birds with one stone.”
Mikita, who is planning to major in music and biology in college, said she has been taking music and science courses offered by Pennsylvania Highlands.
Mikita, who has 15 college credits so far, said the teachers have been doing a good job of presenting the college courses to students.
Kendra Slis, a senior who is expecting to graduate from high school with 33 college credits, said the dual-enrollment program is popular with about 75 percent of the students enrolled.
“I really like the opportunity that the classes offer to myself and the other students because it allows us to get a head start on a college education,” said Kendra, who wants to become a biomedical engineer.
“It also allows us to save money.
“I think it’s awesome that the colleges are providing scholarships and the community is providing grants for students.”
Annie Tomak, a senior who is planning to major in communication and musical theater in college, said the school is doing a good job with the program by challenging students academically. The teachers do a great job of instructing the more advanced college courses, she said.
“It’s extremely beneficial to students planning to attend a four-year college,” she said about the program. “The credits are transferrable to most state schools and a number of private schools.”
Annie, who has 17 credits so far, said the private school she has been accepted at, Point Park University in Pittsburgh, will accept her credits. She is planning to major in communications and musical theater.
Denzel Sullivan, a senior whose college courses include calculus and physics, said the high school is adding courses to the dual-enrollment program each year.
“It’s a great opportunity for students because for a lot of us, we can go into college as sophomores instead of as freshmen,” he said.
“It (program) also helps to reduce the cost of college when you look at the big picture.
“The teachers chosen to teach the college courses are some of the best at the school. They are just really focused and determined to make us better.”
Clare Stem, a senior, described the dual-enrollment program as fantastic.
“This year the school has really bumped up the number of classes being offered,” she said.
The program has helped her to plan her future.
“I was able to pick my school, Duquesne University, where I am planning to major in statistics,” said Clare, who wants to become an actuary.
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