While students across the Lowcountry enjoy their last few weeks of summer vacation, about 100 Dorchester District 2 sophomores have been back in school for almost two weeks.
Part of the district’s inaugural class for its Early College program, about 30 students started class on July 9 at each of the district’s three high schools.
“I told my friends, if you want to do anything with me, it has to be in the first part of the summer,” said Jasmine Boggs, 16, a student at Fort Dorchester High School. “I only had a month of summer break, so I tried to do everything in that month.”
It’s a small price to pay, she said, for the opportunity to have two years of college credit — 60 hours or more — under her belt by the time she graduates in 2016.
“It will give me a chance to get the core classes out of the way,” she said.
Harnish Makkar, 14, another Fort Dorchester student, agreed.
“It will save a lot of time and money,” he said. “And being two years ahead will give me a better chance to take other classes when I get to college.”
The program was open to all 9th-graders at Summerville, Fort Dorchester and Ashley Ridge high schools last school year, but required that they pass a college entrance exam and be selected to participate based on grades, interviews and recommendations. More than 170 students applied and 103 were accepted.
The students spend their mornings learning psychology, and after a lunch break/study hall, half go to music/art appreciation and half to introduction to computers. The courses are taught by instructors from Trident Tech.
While also working toward their high school diplomas, they will take at least six hours of college credit each semester and during the summer, earning college credit as long as they receive a “C” or higher.
The program is free to the students. Funding comes from the district, the South Carolina Educational Foundation and the South Carolina lottery. Trident pays for the 36 students who receive free or reduced-price lunches.
Classes will end Aug. 7, and the students will get a break until school starts district-wide on Aug. 19. This fall, they will take English 101, economics, introduction to computers or art/music appreciation.
Each of the district’s high schools also offer dual-credit and advanced-placement classes, and Fort Dorchester also has an International Baccalaureate program.
“This is just another opportunity in the effort to have students graduate college, or be career-ready,” said Fort Dorchester Principal Bert Postell.
The program is an attempt to “cast the net wider and provide rigorous and challenging opportunities for a greater number of students,” said Sean Alford, district assistant superintendent for instruction.
Dorchester is the only district locally to offer Early College. Berkeley Middle College has been around for three years, and the Charleston County School District is building a middle college called the Center for Advance Studies at Wando High School.
Early College differs from Middle College in that it allows students to start taking college courses when they pass the entrance exam; middle college requires students to be in 11th grade.