Lakeshore Report

Dual Graduation for Dual Credit Students

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While state officials continue to debate college ready standards, some high school students are proving they’re more than ready for college. This week Ivy Tech Community College honored seven high school students who will graduate this spring with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

One of those students, Nyesha Canady, says when her family moved to Gary a few years ago, she became a student at 21st Century Charter School by mistake.

“I kinda came to 21st Century by accident.” says Canady. “We were just coming from almost enrolling me into Thea Bowman Academy, and we got lost on the way home. We had just moved to Gary, and we found 21st. And Ms. West was really nice, she told me that with my grades I could be part of this program, and we took the opportunity.”

Now 17 and about to gradutate, Canady is headed to Ball State University, but not as a freshman.

“They plan on taking all my college credits, so I might be qualified as a junior when I get there. So, I’ll only have to do junior and senior year then I’ll be graduating from college, again, when I’m nineteen.” Canady says.

She earned 65 hours of college credit while still in high school through the Dual Credit Program offered in partnership with Ivy Tech Community College. The program allows students in more than 300 high schools across the state to take free college courses. While most students take just a few courses, a small number earn enough credit for an associate’s degree before receiving their diploma.

Four students from Whiting High School and three students from 21st Century Charter School will be graduating this spring with a diploma and a degree, including Ahronai Bandy.

When asked how she felt about earning her degree, Bandy replied, “Well, at first it was just about taking college credits and then I later realized that we can graduate with a general associate’s degree. And I always want to be like more advanced and more than the average person, so I wanted to take the opportunity and chance to be a part of it.”

Shakira Burks is also graduating with an associate’s degree, and plans to pursue a career in engineering.

“I will be attending the University of Wisconsin Madison for environmental engineering.” Burks says. “I really want to enter the Engineers Without Borders my junior year and I plan to do intramural sports.”

Educators at 21st Century Charter School say small class sizes and strong support networks help make their program successful. This year’s graduating class has 34 students.

High School Academic Coordinator Catisha Toney says “I can actually pick up the phone, and I’ll have time to pick up the phone, and say, ‘Hey, you know, such and such is having a hard time, can you tell me what’s going on?’ or ‘You know what, she’s slacking, she’s kinda messing up in class,’ or ‘She’s doing well.’ You know, whatever that is, I can be able to have that relationship where I can call you, and when I say ‘Hey, it’s Miss Toney,’ ‘Oh, hey, how are you?’ They know who I am.”

Alyce Butler is a founding board member and current president of the board for 21st Century. She says “You have a personal interest in the students, and I’m talking about the staff, the faculty, the principal, you know them. That makes a difference. Instead of getting lost in big numbers.”

Ahronai Bandy agrees. “I had, like, positive people around me and people in the school to help me and tutor me with things I didn’t understand,” she says.

Thomas Coley is the Chancellor for Ivy Tech Community College’s Northwest and North Central regions. He says the Dual Credit Program continues to grow as more educators and parents learn about the chance to save both time and money in college.

Coley says in the two regions he oversees, the programs has gone from about 70 students to around 600 students in a period of three years. “People are more and more seeing that there’s a value to it.” Coley says. “The schools themselves see it as an opportunity for certain groups of students who can take advantage of dual credit and excel, and they want that opportunity for their students.”

As for this year’s graduates, the girls say they’re looking forward to college with a sense of confidence.

I feel I’m more than ready, like, almost kinda cocky. Like, I got this. Yeah. I don’t know if you do, but I got it.” Shakira Burks says with a laugh.

Alyce Butler summed up her feelings saying, “It’s heartwarming when you see people who come from humble beginnings achieve, and have the confidence that they can achieve just as much as anyone else who had the opportunities that they didn’t have. So that’s been my greatest reward, to see those young faces, look at our future, and say, ‘Congratulations,’ and ‘You’ve done a good job.’”


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