An early start on college

Program helps high schoolers learn skills, earn credits toward degree

By April Toler 331-4353 |
March 27, 2012

Jorge Cortes’ parents may have never attended college, but that didn’t stop them from encouraging their son to take his education, and dreams, as far as they can go.

“It’s a big thing for me,” said Jorge, a senior at Bloomington High School South. “(My parents) always inspired me to push forward and try to go as far as I could.”

Thanks to MCCSC’s Early College Program, Jorge will not only be the first person in his family to attend college, he will enter Indiana University with 12 college credits on his record.

“It’s helped me a lot,” he said. “It’s helped give me skills, like note taking, and the experience of knowing what college work is like.”

Monroe County Community School Corp. began offering the Early College Program four years ago at both Bloomington high schools North and South.

The program’s goal is to “increase college enrollment for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students.”

Students who participate in the program are offered dual-credit classes each year. Freshman year, North and South students take a new student seminar, which earns them three college credits and prepares them for what college-level work will be like.

Sophomore year, North students can earn two credits through a critical thinking class and a portfolio and project development management class. South students can earn three credits by taking part in an introduction to microcomputers class.

Junior year, South students can earn three credits by taking Survey of American History. North students can earn up to three credits through the introduction to microcomputers class.

Senior year, students can participate in fundamentals of public speaking, earning an additional three credits.

In the end, if the students participate all four years, they can earn up to 12 credits at South and up to 11 credits at North, all of which transfer to Ivy Tech Community College and IU.

Throughout the program, students are also assigned mentors and visit college campuses to become familiar with being in a college environment.

Jay True, assistant principal at South, said the program serves not only as a way to earn college credits, but provides a sense of encouragement some students wouldn’t otherwise receive.

“It’s a pretty big leap for a lot of these kids,” True said. “We try to do a lot of things to show them it’s possible, you can do it.”

Senior Exsenet Esler admits that before joining the Early College Program, she felt nervous about college.

“I was kind of scared,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure stepping into college, how were the professors going to be, how will the book work be?”

After taking her first early college class, Exsenet knew that being a part of the program would prepare her for college. But the South senior, who plans to attend IU, never realized exactly how much it was preparing her until speaking with her brother.

“My brother, he was at Ivy Tech, and he said, ‘Oh, you’re taking the same classes I’m taking,’” Exsenet said. “I’m like, ‘that’s pretty awesome.’”

Myles Adams, a junior at North, got involved in the program through the encouragement of his aunt and uncle. With a desire to attend medical school, Myles said the Early College Program has given him an early perspective on what it takes to do college-level work.

“They teach you a lot of things that are going to be useful in college, like critical thinking, note taking. A lot of kids don’t know how to take a lot of good notes, so those are the two positive things they do,” he said.

Although earning college credits at no cost is a great advantage of the Early College Program, Marcus Debro, assistant principal at North, said the program gives students so much more. It provides confidence and reassurance, he said, that can make a world of difference in a student’s education and life.

“One of the things that certain students exhibit is that they can’t,” Debro said. “Once we show them that they can, then there’s that sense of pride that all of a sudden, wow, I got an A in a college level class, surely I can get an A in a high school class. They have a tendency to work a little harder once they’ve been in this program.”

Jorge Cortes works on a speech in class at Bloomington High School South. The students are part of an early college program that allows students to receive college credit while in high school. David Snodgress | Herald-Times

Exsenet Esler, right, talks with Jessica Neal as they work on a speech in class at BHS South. The students are part of an early college program that allows students to receive college credit while in high school. David Snodgress | Herald-Times

Jay True, assistant principal at BHS South, talks about the early college program that allows students to receive college credit while in high school. David Snodgress | Herald-Times

Copyright: 2012


About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.