Recently, an innovative new program has emerged in Baton Rouge Louisiana that involves local high schoolers earning an associate degree and a high school diploma at the same time, as reported by an article from The Advocate.
The program is similar to other early college programs that have emerged in Louisiana in recent years, though this particular Baton Rouge-based program, known as the East Baton Rouge Career and Technical Education Center’sEarly College Academy, is set to zero in on specific, high-demand, higher-paying job fields. The end result is to have students walk out of high school and right into a job, having gained the education and experience alongside their diploma requisites.
Earlier this year in March, a memorandum of understanding was signed for the new academy by officials from both the Baton Rouge Community College and the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Though, the coronavirus outbreak and the surrounding closures of schools shut down the operations involved in opening the academy and getting students enrolled. However, officials from the two educational institutions recently reconvened to sign a proclamation that commemorates the partnership between the school system and the community college.
Though the program is beginning with a manageable, smaller size than intended, it’s allowing officials to observe what does and doesn’t work about the program from the onset, as four Baton Rouge teenagers from Broadmoor Senior High School are starting their associate’s degree alongside their diploma pathway this month.
These students started the year by taking both their high school and college-level classes strictly online, and they’re set to return to twice-a-week instruction in-person soon. The in-person instruction will have students taking their traditional classes at Broadmoor High and taking their field-specific college courses at the school system’s Career and Technical Education Center. These four students are the first ninth-graders to attend EBR CTEC, and they’re joining 155 juniors and seniors from other local high schools.
Chancellor of Baton Rouge Community College, Willie Smith told the Advocate just how graduates of the program can make an immediate impact upon exiting. He stated, “Could you imagine — we’ll have 18-year-olds now paying taxes — what that will do for our community?”
Similarly, Associate Superintendent Ben Necaise, who was filling in for Superintendent Leslie Brown addressed students at the ceremony directly by saying, “Congratulations for taking that plunge and being the first students to go through this amazing program. We can’t wait to see what you do.”
These four students from Broadmoor High entering the program are pursuing associate’s degrees in automotive as well as information technology with more degree pathways to be added in the future once the program opens up to more high schools.
So far this year, the students have been taking online IT courses as they await a return to in-person instruction that will allow them to gain experience that comes with full utilization of the hands-on lab equipment.
One student learned of the program just by viewing a promotional poster in the office while he was registering for school earlier this year. He viewed the program as a good opportunity to broaden his expertise, as he had already begun independently learning how to code.
The Executive Vice President of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, John Spain, traced the genesis of the program all the way back to 2008 when he and other civic leaders were trying to decrease the amount of teenagers dropping from local area high schools.
This program, once expanded, wil serve as a great companion to a high schooler’s education as it’ll propel them directly into the workforce just as they receive their diploma, making the students an active investor in their education as early as Freshman year.
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