New Program to Give High School Students an Early Start
Nikasha N Dicks
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New Program to Give High School Students an Early Start

(May 26, 2016, Aiken, SC) Aiken Technical College (ATC) and Aiken County Public School District (ACPSD) announced Thursday the launch of an Early College program at Midland Valley High School (MVHS).

“The Early College concept is designed for exceptional students who have demonstrated their readiness for college level academic work as rising high school sophomores,” said ATC President Dr. Susan Winsor during a press conference and orientation for the new program.

The program, the first of its kind in Aiken County, will provide high school students the opportunity to earn an Associate in Arts degree from ATC at the same time they are earning their high school diploma.

“We like to think out of the box, but I think we may have left the box in another room on this one! Thank you all for your willingness to try something different,” said ACPSD Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford.

Starting June 13, a cohort of 18 rising sophomores will begin their college journey by taking two college courses—Psychology 201 and College Skills 103—on the ATC campus. The students will then take two courses each semester, including summers, through the spring semester of their senior year.

Courses during the fall and spring semesters of the students’ sophomore and junior years will be held on the MVHS campus. Summer courses and senior year courses will be conducted at ATC.

Students will receive both high school and college credit by participating in the program.

Upon high school graduation, the students can then transfer the Associate in Arts degree to four-year colleges and universities as college juniors.

A number of support resources will be available through both ATC and MVHS for students throughout the program.

“This is an opportunity for you to impact your life in a major way,” Dr. Alford told students and their parents during Thursday’s orientation. “This is an exciting opportunity. We are all here to help you. Parents we are here to support you and your children.”

MVHS student Nicole McCuen is excited about being among the first to enter the program.

“I never would have thought about starting college this early if ATC weren’t coming into my high school on our campus,” said the 16-year-old.

The program is the latest addition to the College’s Early Start: Dual Enrollment program. For many years, the College has offered a dual enrollment program for area high school students to take college courses on the ATC campus or online for dual or concurrent credit.

In addition to the Early College program, rising juniors and seniors at MVHS will be able to take advantage of such courses without leaving their campus. The courses will be taught by ATC faculty on the MVHS campus and will provide all students the opportunity to start earning college credit before graduating from high school.

The Early College program fits into the ACPSD’s plans to guarantee an academic stretch for all students and better prepare them for the 21st century workforce through High School Thematic Programs. The District’s Accelerated Learning Initiative announced earlier Thursday will begin with four schools in the 2016-17 school year with implementation District-wide by 2018.

In partnership with The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) and generous support with a lead gift from AECOM, the parent company of a Department of Energy contractor, and the Department of Defense, the District will transform math and science education at North Augusta and South Aiken high schools beginning this summer and designate the schools as Advanced Placement (AP) Academies.

Aiken High will explore the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program next year with tentative plans to reinstate IB with greater numbers of students participating and an increased emphasis on the programs’ renowned Career and Technology Education pathways in the 2017-18 school year.

Accelerated Learning Initiatives for Silver Bluff, Ridge Spring-Monetta and Wagener Salley high schools will be studied and planned throughout the next year, with anticipated implementation for thematic programs at all seven Aiken County high schools by 2018.

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