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Airport students soar in Early College program

Lexington, SC - For Airport High School students it's a textbook "win-win" situation.

The school offers an Early College program for juniors and seniors.

The college courses are offered at Midlands Technical College and on Airport High School campus, said Marcella Heyward-Evans, Lexington School District 2's Chief Instructional Officer.

“In the Early College Program, we had 48 seniors who participated in Early College while at Airport High School,” Heyward-Evans said. “Collectively, they completed 207 college courses and 621 college credits. Of the class of 2016, 95 A’s were earned in Early College courses and 63 B’s were earned.”

Brad Coleman is Airport's Principal. He firmly supports the EC program. Dr. Dixon Brooks – now principal at Busbee Creative Arts Academy- was principal at Airport when the EC program was launched. He said he is proud of it, and he stated its goals.

“The goal of the Early College program was really about three things for me. First, I wanted Airport High School to be able to help students navigate the college experience. Many of our parents didn't have the opportunity to go to college, so helping their child know how to apply, enroll, get books, and/or how to manage the extra work in college wasn't something they all felt comfortable doing,” Brooks said.

He said he also, “wanted students to realize that college was a real option for them. For students who don't grow up with the expectation, "You will go to college."'

Brooks said money was the third factor.

“So many of our students' families do not have the resources to send their child to college, this is a way for them to earn credits or now even complete an Associates Degree as they graduate from Airport High School,” Brooks said.

Heyward-Evans said the classes, taught by MTC faculty on the Airport campus, are tuition free.

Judi Bledsoe is the AHS Early College Program Coordinator and School Counselor, who plans and coordinates the program from planning, through the application process, testing, advisement and completion. Daniel Bailey, AHS Student Activities Coordinator and Early College Coach, provides daily student support, monitoring student

progress and teacher needs.

“They get the true feel of going to college,” Bledsoe said. She also said the EC courses are not a career program, but English, math and science classes on a college level.

“The students get so much self-confidence from the courses,” Bledsoe said. She also said she has been impressed by the willingness of students to keep testing, to improve test scores, to qualify for the classes.

Bledsoe also said higher education changes the trajectory for the life path of families.

In addition to college courses, that can result in an Associates Degree, Airport offers a “Freshman Cohort.”

“It is a group of freshman who begin their college experience together during the second summer session of Midlands Technical College,” said Brooks. “They take classes together on the high school campus until their senior year when they take classes on the campus of Midlands Technical College. Brooks said the students are in the program long enough to earn an Associates Degree by the time they are seniors.

Bledsoe said the program is appealing and other school districts in Richland and Lexington counties have moved to implement EC at their high schools after Airport started it.

Brooks was also sure to be thankful to the entities that made EC possible.

He said the program could not have gotten off the ground without the financial backing and support of the Lexington Two School Board and of the Airport High School Education Foundation.

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