For 17 Union High School students, next school year will be much more than a start to their junior year — it will also be the beginning of their journey to an associate’s degree at East Central College.
These students are the first class of the ECC Early College Academy. They will attend classes at UHS and on the ECC campus with the goal of earning an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree, as well as their high school diploma.
A kickoff meeting was held last week with many of the students accepted into the academy, as well as parents, ECC Director of Early College Programs Megen Strubberg, ECC President Dr. Jon Bauer, and UHS and ECC staff and administrators.
Under the academy, students will be immersed into college classes and they will attend class with other college students at ECC, all taught by instructors at the college. Students will have access to the ECC Learning Center, library, student clubs and activities.
There is no cost to the high school students to participate in the academy.
“I am beyond grateful and excited to be a part of the program. It will be an equally demanding and rewarding journey for these students,” said Strubberg.
Early College Academy student Sarah Harris said she wants to pursue a career in medicine and surgery, and the academy will give her a head start toward a degree.
“This will help me get a jump start on college and I can begin taking harder classes,” she said. “Then I can focus on classes that go toward a degree.”
Amelia Brock, who will likely study business, said she is very excited to be part of the program.
“I like the idea of starting college early and beginning classes in my major earlier,” she said.
Many of the participants added that two years of college — at no cost to them — is a great opportunity.
Alex Craig said he is interested in studying web design, or related fields.
“This academy is providing us a pretty big head start in life and two years of free college,” he said.
According to Sage Sparkman, who may study journalism, this program could be a chance for her to begin a career earlier.
“We are able to take a step forward and further our education,” she said. “We could get an earlier start on a job and our career path.”
Dr. Bauer added that ECC has been interested in this type of program for area high schoolers for several years.
“I am very excited about the Early College Academy. We have been interested in expanding our offering to high school students in the region for a long time,” he told the students.
“Each one of you is part of history as we formalize our partnership and venture into new territory.”
Markie Lampkin, UHS assistant principal over sophomores and juniors, said she has worked collaboratively with Strubberg with the support of the Union R-XI Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Scott Hayes to spearhead and roll out the Early College Academy initiative.
“I’m excited about the highly-motivated group of students we have participating,” Lampkin said. “I cannot think of a more qualified inaugural group.”
During last week’s Zoom meeting, Lampkin reminded students that as college students, they are their own advocates.
“I am encouraging all students to self-advocate and exercise their voices,” she commented. “Although high school students, they will soon be full-time college students.
“The ability to exercise their voice is crucial to maintain the best possible UHS and ECC experience,” Lampkin added. “Our hopes are that they are truly able to have the best of both worlds while obtaining a high school diploma in conjunction with their associate’s degree.”
Strubberg noted that in 2022, the students will walk across the stage during the UHS graduation ceremony and the ECC ceremony.
In order to participate in the Early College Academy, students must attend a high school that offers the partnership with ECC, have a 3.0 GPA, and college ready placement test scores.
While enrolled in the program, the grade for every course taken at ECC is transferred back to the high school transcript. Students are required to maintain passing grades — C or better — in all classes.