I had the chance last week to talk with five students at Lewiston High School who are taking advantage of an early college opportunity that will save them money, expose them to the college experience, and could lead them to future careers. I picked LHS for the second stop on my Promising Practices tour because the kids I talked to are among 68 juniors and seniors who are taking college classes for credit at institutions like the University of Southern Maine and Central Maine Community College. It’s encouraging to see students taking initiative when it comes to their futures, and it’s great to meet teachers and administrators who are making that happen.
Each year, LHS’s Aspirations Coordinator JoAnne Dowd explains the early college program to the sophomore class so they can make informed decisions about their futures. Students may take early college classes through Lewiston’s College for ME Androscoggin program or virtual classes through the Massachusetts Virtual High School Collaborative. In addition, the school board has recently approved an expansion of College for ME through a College Scholars program, which will allow students to spend half their school day taking classes for credit at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College.
I spoke with junior Paige Clabby, who knew as a freshman that she wanted to enroll in the early college program as soon as possible (in the fall of her junior year). Paige sat down with her guidance counselor, listed all the courses she needed to take over the next four years, and told him to make it happen. Some of these kids know what they want—and Lewiston’s giving them the tools to get it done.
This early college program is providing another viable option for students. For some, it will lead to careers. For others, it’s still a great opportunity to figure out what they don’t want to do while saving themselves and their parents money. Taking college classes in high school is a lot of work, but the students believe it’s worth it, knowing they can graduate from Lewiston with up to year of college under their belt. Plus, when these students transition to college, they will be better prepared to do college-level work.
Governor LePage has set aside funds in his proposed biennial budget to expand the state’s existing early college program, allowing more students to gain post-secondary credit and experience before graduating from high school. Gov. LePage aims to double the amount of allowable credits students could attain through the program and allow homeschoolers access to the program.
LHS has been offering the early college program for nearly a decade, at times enrolling up to 120 students. And the school is looking to expand the program and make it easier for students through the recently announced College Scholars Program, which will start up next school year. These are the kind of opportunities we need to make available to more students across the state. Congratulations to Lewiston, and to the other schools across the state who are bolstering early college options for their students.