BLESSING FOR MY FAMILY: Bladen Early College High School offers a unique preparation experience

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DUBLIN – In these tough times we are living in now, what parent would not be interested in saving a potentially huge chunk of change in their child’s college education?

If so, maybe they should consider the educational option of Bladen Early College High School. It is one of some 115 premier colleges in North Carolina.

“It’s a hidden gem in Bladen County,” said Chris Carroll, who has taught at the school since its inception in 2018.

This accelerated high school program – which provides educational opportunities for advancing ninth grade students in Bladen and surrounding counties – operates as a partnership between Bladen Community College and schools in Bladen County.

“Students will graduate from high school and be eligible to earn college certificates, diplomas or degrees in order to achieve their goals in the job market or in school,” the school says on its website Web. “Students in the first college program will experience a community college learning environment that is different from that of a traditional high school. Students’ potentials and interests will be identified and nurtured at the start of their high school years. “

Bladen Early College is sequestered in the Louis Parker Building, Building 17, just behind the Auditorium, and Building 2 on the Dublin campus.

The current enrollment is 145 students in grades 9 to 12. The school’s first 12th grade class, made up of 41 students who continue to roam the halls and classrooms after entering the school for the first time since its inception, will graduate in the spring.

While seniors have six high school teachers, they have access to all community college instructors on campus.

“It generally benefits the community, students and staff,” Carroll said. “We want you to come back to Bladen County after you graduate. We see that some families are saving about $ 80,000.

That would amount to roughly two years of four-year tuition and the cost of college textbooks.

It costs students nothing to attend Bladen Early College.

“If you walk into a four-year college as a junior, depending on where you go, your first-year and second-year tuition has been paid,” said Susan Cheshire, first-year principal. “It’s pretty amazing because college tuition doesn’t come cheap. “

The concept appeals to Alvin Shepherd, whose 17-year-old daughter Kara attends Early College. She is a senior and a member of the first promotion.

“The first year was pretty tough,” he recalls. “It’s just getting used to – going from a college mentality to this college mentality, that’s what it means.”

Kara has always been “that very shy guy.” She always really kept to herself, ”he said.

When it was time for her to get out of Clarkton School of Discovery, Shepherd and his wife feared she was so calm and shy.

“To be honest with you, Early College has come and answered many prayers,” he said. “She was able to come out of her shell. She still doesn’t like standing in front of people, but she will now.

Depending on where she goes, Shepherd said, Early College will have saved the family between $ 40,000 and $ 100,000.

Kara is seriously considering Western Carolina University or Campbell University for her final two years of college. He said West Carolina costs around $ 20,000 a year, so Early College saved him around $ 40,000; admission is about $ 52,000 a year at Campbell, he said, so she saved him about $ 104,000 by completing his first and second years in high school.

At this point, her daughter wants to become a health and physical education teacher and trainer.

This Early College experience, he said, has just blessed his family.

“It’s very fast-paced,” Cheshire said of the school’s course load. “They are expected to take all high school courses that high school students take. You have teachers on staff providing them. Then they go to college for the college courses they take. It is a very heavy load. They are attacking both worlds, and they have to balance it. And we work with them because the staff are so invested with the students and the school is so relatively small. We provide assistance to help them do this. We check them daily to make sure they don’t crash under their weight or how we can help them adjust their load so they can go where they want to go. It is a wonderful place. The teachers are phenomenal.

There are a few drawbacks, Carroll notes. There is no on-site athletic experience for students attending – the school does not have athletic programs. But there will be a graduation party and students will enjoy field trips.

Cheshire, a 46-year-old Bladen County native with a soft Southern accent, pointed out that the club’s various activities include the fields of yearbook, theater, Science Olympics, beta and student government.

“We have several clubs that they are involved in. We do things with these clubs,” she said.

Cheshire is a good example of someone who has never left Bladen County except to graduate from UNC Wilmington and Fayetteville State.

She graduated from Bladenboro High School in 1993.

Cheshire started working at Bladen Early College in October. Former principal Rodney Smith held a position in the county schools office as principal of exceptional children.

“It’s a lot to learn. The last 13 years of my administrative career were in elementary school, ”said Cheshire. “I have been in Dublin Primary School for 13 years.”

She continued her post of principal here due to the distinctive format of the school.

“This is one of the main reasons I chose it – it’s unique,” ​​she said. ” It’s a challenge; it’s innovative. The students here are amazing. This has been my favorite part, meeting the students here and hearing their stories. And why they chose this format for their own learning. And that’s part of the reason why uniqueness has been such a big draw to me.

According to the school’s website, “Bladen Early College High School will focus on both university transfer degrees and CTE certificates, diplomas and degrees. Our program will provide four coursework opportunities to support student success in an Associate Degree in Science, Industrial Systems Technology-Machining, Allied Health, and Information Technology. These educational pathways will further foster the development of a workforce capable of supporting future employment opportunities in and around Bladen County.

Students are selected based on recommendations from current eighth grade teachers at the college. Students must also submit an essay on their aspirations. It all goes to a review board at Early College.

“It’s not that we’re looking for the best of the best,” Cheshire said. “We are looking for students who want to become first generation graduates or who have aspirations for the job market. Or have aspirations for a four-year college where we can give them the opportunity to graduate before the game. We can get them certified to enter the workforce or want to go to a four-year college. And we can take them forward by helping them get an associate’s degree and enter a four-year college as a junior. “

Cheshire said what really makes the school unique is the offer of a certification program in any field that Bladen Community College offers its students. The institution offers 73 programs. So it’s not just an Associate of Arts degree from Bladen Early College High School. Early college students can earn plumbing licenses, welding certificates, cosmotology certificates, or business administration certificates, among others. Students will use these certificates to enter the workforce.

“And that’s a very unusual model,” Cheshire said, before adding that it also meets the business need in the county, as graduate students have the skills that businesses need.

What does it take to be a successful student in school?

Anyone can do it, said the manager: “It just takes a very motivated person. It’s a lot. They don’t just take traditional high school classes. They also take courses at the university. Someone who is motivated and motivated enough to handle this load. It is not a light load. It must be someone who really wants it.

This story is written by Michael Futch, formerly of the Bladen Journal. Contact the newsroom at [email protected]


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