August 20, 2019
Why do we send our high school students to real college campuses to take real college courses as early as 9th grade? Because …
We want to help students believe in themselves. We want our students to see themselves as real college students in real life, not just in their dreams. We want them to see they can do it. And we want to be there in case they fall down so we can help them get back up and try again.
Most of our students are first generation college students. And, as is the case in most things in life, they need someone there to help them learn the ropes at first. Think of it. Did you learn to swim on your own? Did you jump in the deep end of the pool and just start swimming? I doubt it. You started in the shallow end with someone holding you–an adult–helping you to move your arms and kick your feet. We treat college the same way.
We provide an “intro to college” course where students learn time management, what a syllabus is, what professors expect and how they don’t hold your hand. This is much more than a college tour. It’s real!
And, since our courses are on college campuses, students get acquainted with college classrooms, the other students, real professors, schedules, and the campus as a whole. They actually go through the entire enrollment process, testing, meetings with counselors, purchasing books, choosing courses and building schedules and more. Sounds basic to many, but it really isn’t for first timers.
And then our students start to swim on their own in the real college experiences. Some kick and stroke enough in the college pool that they earn a year of college and/or a career certification. Others push themselves harder and earn a full associate degree while in our high school. And yes, a few others push even harder and earn a bachelor’s degree during the same time traditional students earn a high school diploma.
Raven Osborne was our first high school student to go the distance and earn her bachelor’s degree. That was in 2017. She inspired others to follow her. Erin, above left, already earned her associate degree, and as a junior in our high school is on track to earn her bachelor’s degree in 2021–when she graduates from our high school.
We are excited for Erin and the many others following in her footsteps.
There is a seachange happening in Gary, Indiana. Students and their families are starting to see college as real.
And there is a seachange in Baton Rouge, too. Students in Baton Rouge are just starting out on their college journey, but they too, are seeing that college is a real thing for them. They can do it. The 9th graders in the picture up top right, are in their second college course already. They gave up their summer–because they wanted to–to attend their first class. Now they understand. Now they are confident. They are ready to fly. And look at their smiles. Priceless!
That’s why we do what we do. Last year, more than 50% of our high school students in Gary, Indiana took real college and career level classes. That’s a big deal considering when we started our school in 2005, the high school dropout rate in Gary was about 50%. Our kids aren’t dropping out of high school. They not only complete high school, they go to college and graduate with real experience.
It’s too early to tell how successful our model is/will be, but anecdotally, we have students completing their 4-year college degrees at six times the national average.
From my vantage point here in Indianapolis, its neat to see that we’ve started a bit of a ripple in Gary and Baton Rouge. Maybe it will turn into a wave!
Yes, it’s fun changing the world together! Join us. You will be glad you did!