August 6, 2008

23 Columbus Seniors Get Ready for 2-for-1 Year

By Encarnacion Pyle, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Aug. 6--With only two more high-school classes to take before he can graduate, Brandon Hayes said the state's new Seniors to Sophomores program was a good fit.

"I couldn't see wasting most of the year in the high school when I could get ahead on my dream of becoming an architectural engineer," said Hayes, 16, of Eastmoor Academy.

Twenty-three Columbus students are spending the week at Columbus State Community College learning tips on how to make the jump from high school to college. On Friday, they'll tour six participating colleges and get a feel for what it is like to be a freshman.

About 100 Columbus students -- a quarter of those eligible -- had applied for the program, which allows teens to complete their senior year at the same time as their freshman year in college, said Diane Ging, supervisor of Columbus schools' higher-education partnerships.

Of those students, 25 were selected from 10 schools to earn the free college credits. But by the first day of orientation, two had dropped out over concerns that they

weren't ready for the demands.

Starting in the fall, the students will attend six colleges full-time: Columbus State, Capital University, Franklin University, Ohio Dominican University, Ohio State University and Ohio University at Pickerington.

Statewide, 41 districts were asked to participate in the program. The legislature set aside $4 million for the program's first year. The plan is to offer each of the early adopter school districts as much as $100,000, mostly to market the program. It's unclear how much the new program will cost, as it's based on each college's tuition.

School districts and colleges say they will lose money on the program.

The program allows students to take part in sports and extracurricular activities at their high schools.

"I can go to senior prom with my high-school friends and wake up the next day for my classes at Franklin," Kayla Brooks said.

Brooks, 16, of Centennial High School, had doubts that she'd be able to go to college without Seniors to Sophomores.

"For my family, money is big," she said. "Getting a year out of the way for free is a blessing."

Nadia Dada, 17, also of Centennial, said going to Columbus State will help her reach her goals.

"Officially starting college as a sophomore will be great, especially since I want to go to medical school," she said.

Hayes said he can't wait to complete his general education courses at Columbus State so he can start taking classes in his major.

"It's where my passions lie," he said.

Columbus Superintendent Gene Harris told the students yesterday that they are pioneers. Harris' grandmother told her the same thing when she transferred to Notre Dame shortly after the college began to admit women.

"You're not only representing yourself, you're representing your family, your school district, your community," Harris said at the orientation.

Columbus schools sent letters about the program to about 400 incoming seniors who met the eligibility requirements. Students had to have passed all sections of the Ohio Graduation Test and received a "C" or better in Algebra II and three years of English courses.

"This is not for every student," said Nancy Nestor-Baker, director of Ohio State's preschool through 12th grade program. "You have to be ready to step out."

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The free state program lets them complete a year of college while finishing high school.


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