Davin Gardner, a 16-year-old student at Village Christian Academy, earned college credit before his junior year. He took two courses offered at Fayetteville Technical Community College last school year at the private school. He passed both.
“I’ve learned how to write better than I did before, and I think it would help you excel while getting college credit as well,” Gardner said.
Gardner is one of hundreds of students in Cumberland County enrolled in High School Connections (HSC). The local branch of a state program, called Career and College Promise, allows high school students to take college courses and earn credit to obtain an associate degree, diploma, certificate and more from an institution in the North Carolina Community College system.
The program, originally geared toward junior and senior students, is now open to ninth and tenth graders attending public and private high schools in Cumberland County. Most students complete HSC requirements before or when they graduate. John Green, a career coach with FTCC’s HSC program, said the program provides students with more opportunities to determine what they want to do in college and later life before they graduate from high school.
“This is a supplement to their instruction to keep students engaged,” Green said. “With tenth graders, the way things are advancing, to be able to come out of high school with a certificate or the front end of classes before they start college, it’s much more appealing.”
HSC courses are offered in addition to standard, honors and AP courses at high schools in the county.
Village Christian Academy, in Fayetteville, is the first school in the county to offer HSC courses to its freshman and sophomore students. Gardner enrolled in HSC with the aim of earning an associate degree before going to college. He plans to study engineering at North Carolina State University.
Ninth and tenth grade students take fewer HSC courses than eleventh and twelfth graders. For example, ninth graders can take only up to two courses, such as Writing and Inquiry (ENG 111) and Public Speaking (COM-231).
Last year, seven tenth graders from Village Christian Academy enrolled in the program. All earned As and Bs in the HSC courses.
“They loved the classes, they loved doing it,” VCA guidance counselor Deborah Bailey said. “They are taking high-level classes that challenge and help them with their GPA. I’ve been pleased with the support I get from the career coaches. It’s been a great partnership for us.”
Fourteen-year-old Isabella Rietkerk is taking HSC courses for the first time this year. “I think this year’s going to be really good,” she said. “I am excited to graduate with my associate degree [someday] and save money for college.”
High School Connections is currently offered in 33 public, private and homeschools throughout Cumberland County. The program has been around since before 2014. Learn more and apply for High School Connections here.
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