A jumpstart on college

St. Louis Community College offers high schoolers a chance at a college degree

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Courtesy of Cameron Chandler

Junior Cameron Chandler walks to class at St. Louis Community College. Chandler first joined the program after a year of online school. “My mom was the one who really pushed me to do it. I think just trying new things [is a big benefit of the program] because in a normal, no COVID [situation, I don’t think that I would have joined],” Chandler said. “I was really looking into more opportunities because I had a lot of downtime thinking about where I was going, what the future held for me. I think just really taking advantage of all opportunities that are thrown at you [is important].”

Cooking, sewing, painting: The COVID-19 pandemic has left students with plenty of free time to contemplate their future plans and explore new hobbies. Some students used their abundance of free time over the past year to explore new education options and get a headstart on their futures. The Early College Program (ECP) offers just thatan opportunity for early advancement into college classes. The ECP is run through the Parkway School District as a connection to Wildwood’s St. Louis Community College. The program offers an opportunity for current juniors and seniors in high school to earn their associates degree. Students also have the opportunity to earn these same credits through dual enrollment at the college.

Junior Cameron Chandler is currently enrolled in the dual enrollment program. Chandler plans on using this program to gain her associates degree and eventually major in nursing.

“I decided, after talking with my parents, that this program would be a [good] option because it gives me a head start,” Chandler said. “The end results would put me in a [good] place, so when I’m going into college I will technically be a sophomore, not a freshman. I will be ahead.”

Students enrolled in the these programs are able to create their own schedules based on their timing preferences. They may also choose to attend high school courses if given approval by the Director of Choice Programs and Principal Jennifer Stafill.

“[The dual enrollment program] definitely opened my eyes because [of the] independence [it offered], that’s just how it’s gonna be from here on out,” Chandler said. “These are the classes I want to take and this is where I want to be. It was really all up to me.”

Students are evaluated on their time management, attendance and academic performance when applying for the these programs. Junior Lauren Stewart joined the dual enrollment program in order to obtain college credits and feel prepared for the future. The classes she attends operate at an accelerated pace compared to her high school classes, as despite having fewer classes per day, Stewart is assigned more work than a typical high school class.

“None of the professors allow make-up assignments or redos to regain credit,” Stewart said. “You get one chance to do your best.”

The increase in workload comes not just from within the classes themselves, but also the activities students participate in. Despite attending classes at the St. Louis Community College, students are able to return to their school for after-school clubs, sports and other activities. Junior Haley Patel participates in cross country and National Honors Society while also going to classes at the college as a part of the ECP.

“It just really teaches you that you have to be on top of your schedule and everything,” Patel said. “You have to balance schoolwork, then going home [and doing] homework. [You also have to balance going to] practice [and] going to normal work, balancing [all of your responsibilities by] making sure you’re on top of everything and going on time [to] everything.”

St. Louis Community College’s early college programs is available students from across the district along with students from multiple other school districts.

“I really like making new friends from different schools because students from Rockwood Summit go there, students from Eureka, and all the other schools,” Patel said. “There’s other kids that are doing the same program as me. It’s really fun being able to interact with them.”

Though the current five students enrolled in the ECP program consist entirely of juniors, seniors are also eligible to participate in the program. Students who attend classes at St. Louis Community College are also eligible for other college-credit options including dual enrollment and the A+ program. While the ECP is only eligible to juniors and seniors, dual enrollment is available for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“If anybody asked me, I would say 100% look into it, even if you’re going into senior year,” Chandler said. “A lot of my friends [have] asked me about it, [they say] ‘oh, like that sounds cool,’ well [even if you] can’t join the ECP, you can still do dual enrollment [and] I would highly recommend it because any credit hours you can get before going to college is amazing.”

Credits earned through St. Louis Community College are transferred to other institutions through the CORE 42 bill. CORE 42 was adopted in 2018 through the establishment of the Higher Education Core Curriculum Act, allowing for the transfer of credits among various education frameworks. This includes all public institutions within Missouri and a few out of state or private institutions.

I’m glad that these credits are able to transfer, [but] I just hope that they’re able to transfer to the school I get accepted to,” Patel said. “It would make my life a bit easier since I would already have my associates degree.

Students are only required to pay for textbooks when joining these programs. All other fees, such as college tuition, are covered by Parkway for a total of 60 credit hours. The courses these students attend consist of college students who attend St. Louis Community College and the students are able to utilize campus resources such as the library, computer labs and student resource centers. 

“[I] feel like being selected for this program is a great opportunity. I have the best of both worlds I can still participate in the sports, clubs and activities at [school] and spend time with my friends there,” Stewart said. “I can also take advantage of all [of] the offerings of the St. Louis Community College too. It’s a win-win.”