They looked like freshman and talked like freshman. They even walked down the freshman halls. But there was something very different about the members of the Class of 2015 who showed up at Pasadena High on Monday.
There was something very fishy about the latest haul of Eagle "fish."
A select group of 57 Pasadena High freshmen began a journey on Monday that could lead to an associate degree from college the same day each graduates from high school.
With the Pasadena ISD's Freshmen First orientation on the start-up agenda, the district's oldest high-school campus celebrated a dual launch. The new school year marked the official beginning of the Pasadena Early College High School (PECHS). In conjunction with San Jacinto College, the program offers four associate degree programs to qualifying high-school freshmen -- in business, psychology, life science and mathematics - all at no cost to students.
The program, a first in the Pasadena ISD, also boasts a time savings of two years in each student's pursuit of a four-year college degree.
"I have no doubt that the students that I met this morning will go above and beyond," said Kesha Moore, a biology teacher for PECHS.
Actually, those 57 early-college journeys started well before the first day of school. To qualify for the program, interested eighth-grade students had to maintain at least an 80 average in all core classes, pass the TAKS test, show a good attendance record, apply at San Jacinto College, submit two letters of recommendation from teachers and then go through an interview process.
Emily Wilson, a world geography teacher for PECHS, said her enthusiasm about the program adds to the excitement she is already experiencing as a first-year teacher. "The students are eager to learn," she said, "and this is going to give these students an extra advantage in life."
Students will still have the opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities, campus events and athletics at Pasadena High while enrolled in the program. They will also have access to San Jacinto College resources such as campus libraries, tutoring facilities, writing centers and computer labs.
The Early College classes will be contained in a two-story section of what was once the main building. School officials hope that by exposing students to college at an earlier age, most will be motivated to pursue degrees beyond the associate level. During the first two years of the program, students will be taking all their classes -- both high school and college -- at Pasadena High.
As seniors, students will take all classes at San Jacinto College.
Officials hope to expand the program later to as many as 500 students from all five district high schools.