Attending college is starting to become second nature at Greater Johnstown High School.
Two dual-enrollment programs associated with Pennsylvania Highlands Community College – Associate Degree in High School and Accelerated College Education – are growing more popular.
About 150 students participated in the programs last year, said Michael Vuckovich, high school principal. This year there are more than 300.
Both programs are being paid for through grants and endowments from the community.
The programs are for freshmen to senior students.
Freshman Cassandra Helsel is pleased the opportunity is available.
“I think it’s a great program,” she said. “It gives the students opportunities to earn college credits during high school.
“It saves time and money. It also prepares you for further education by preparing you with what you need.”
Cassandra is taking U.S. history and micro computer application, both Accelerated College Education courses, at the high school.
“I enjoy both of the classes,” she said.
Her teachers, Rob Heinrich and Dale Henigin, are doing a fantastic job, she said.
In the second semester, Cassandra and other students will take two courses at Penn Highlands in the morning before returning to the high school.
Freshman Kayla Leventry said the opportunity to take college programs in high school is fantastic.
“They are great programs for our school to have and everyone should take full advantage of them,” she said.
The ninth-grade principal, Amy Arcurio, is fantastic, Kayla said.
“She really cares and wants to help you as much as she can,” she said.
Brandon Esparza, also a freshman, said students will be able to increase the number of college courses taken in each succeeding year.
“I think it’s great,” he said about the college opportunity. “It’s going well. It will give me and others a head start on college.”
Tony Kubic, another freshman, said the two college programs go hand-in-hand.
“I think they are excellent opportunities for the students,” he said about the programs. “They give students a chance to get an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school.”
Arcurio said the dual-enrollment programs are working because of a wonderful staff and teachers who are providing the mindset that college is
a real option.
The dual-enrollment programs will enable students to earn their associate degree on the day they get their high school diploma, she said.
“They then have a very abbreviated college commitment and cost to earn their bachelor’s degree,” Arcurio said.
Vuckovich noted that student loan debt now has surpassed credit card debt.
“We have a responsibility, academically and financially, to place students on an individualized pathway for success through rigorous educational programming and through statewide articulated agreements that make postsecondary education available for all students at an affordable rate,” he said.
Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FrankNews10.