Incoming Pasadena High freshmen Josue Bravo and Jackie Alonzo compare notes during a summer prep class at the school. The two are among 57 students set to take part in the new Early College Program, which begins later this month.
By BRITTA GAMINO
Pasadena ISD Communications
It began as a plan to expand the dual credit program at Pasadena High. But when the plan becomes reality later this month, 57 Pasadena High freshmen will find themselves on a path to earn a college degree the same day they graduate from high school.
The Pasadena High Early College Program, set to launch with the first day of school, will allow incoming freshmen to concurrently enroll in classes through San Jacinto College. This gives each student the opportunity to earn an associate degree by the time they earn their high-school diploma.
The college courses would be offered at no cost. That would represent a savings in college tuition costs of about $6,000 per student.
And a time savings of two years in each student's pursuit of a four-year college degree.
"The overall goal is for us to work with our students and create a plan for them to get 60 credit hours that are transferable to a four-year university," says Pasadena High Principal Joe Saavedra.
Initially, four associate degree programs will be offered: business, psychology, life science and mathematics.
The plan represents a pilot program currently open only to eighth-graders who live in Pasadena High's attendance zone. Fifty-seven students have been accepted into the program for the first year. School officials hope to expand it later to as many as 500 students from around the Pasadena ISD, and offer the program at all district high schools.
"The idea is for us to start the program here and then figure out how to open this program to every school," Saavedra said.
Students interested in enrolling in the program had to maintain at least an 80 average in all core classes, pass the TAKS test, show a good attendance record and submit two letters of recommendation from current teachers.
An interview process helped determined each student's commitment to the program. Finally, students completed an application for San Jacinto College.
The program is a first for the Pasadena ISD. More than 40 early college high school programs have already been established in Texas.
Saavedra said that by exposing students to college at an earlier age, most will be motivated to pursue degrees beyond the associate level. He said 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 in the program will take all classes at San Jacinto College.
"What is so unique about our campus is that we actually have a separate building to lend to the program," Saavedra said. "That way our students can be separated but still feel part of a group and part of the student body."
Early College classes will be contained in a two-story section of what used to be the main building. Some of the second-story classrooms overlook the food court.
Classrooms will have a college look and feel, with smaller areas for studying and group projects. Classes will have a student-teacher ratio of 20:1.
Students will still have the opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities, campus events and athletics at Pasadena High while enrolled in the program. They'll also have access to San Jacinto College resources such as campus libraries, tutoring facilities, writing centers and computer labs.
"Students will have the same access as regular college students," said Jaynie Mitchell, director of Dual Credit and Early Admission at San Jacinto College Central.
"They can attend sporting and arts events as well, and become part of the proud Raven tradition at San Jacinto College Central."
Jason Jones, Vianey Espinosa and Jessica Castillo combine efforts during an AVID class held over the summer at Pasadena High, where all three will participate in the Early College Program.
Classes in the Early College Program will be held in a contained, two-story location in a central part of the Pasadena High campus.