Columbia Early College High School Represents New Approach to Future of Education

Published 3:13 pm Saturday, May 23, 2015


This begins a two-part series on early colleges in the local area and their effect on the community.

High School students today are faced with challenges

Parents, teachers, and legislators are emphasizing the need to prepare for college early.

College then is a segue into the labor market.

Jobs for the Future,  a national education think-tank, states:

“The challenges facing our country are well known. International competition continues to grow; meanwhile our own employers struggle to find skilled workers. Some people may disagree about the details of these challenges, but this is clear: the key to a prosperous future is ensuring that we are able to create—and sustain—an educated workforce with the 21st-century skills employers need to succeed in this increasingly competitive world.”

Columbia High School has an active Early College.

Christina Hale, English Instructor at Beaufort County Community College, has worked in Tyrrell County developing Columbia Early College High School with local officials

Hale has learned many things in her current position as liaison to Columbia Early College High School at Beaufort County Community College.

“Some of my goals would be that we could get more of the students on our campus. In the fall, we have two that are going to be coming on campus. They have to provide transportation and it is quite far. But I think when the students come on the campus; it changes their mindset. They become more successful because they feel like a college student,” said Hale.

This school year CECHS had its first student, MaryAnn Armstrong, graduate with both a high school diploma and an Associate in Arts degree from Beaufort County Community College

Hale mentioned that she hopes Armstrong’s graduation will encourage other students from Tyrrell County to graduate in coming years.

“Our hope is that we will have more. We have had a lot of students get very close to finishing. The idea is that they finish in five years. They have a choice of doing the fifth year or not.  A lot of them did not want to do the fifth year because they did not see the benefit. Then some students did the fifth year and they were quite successful and liked it,” said Hale

Hale mentioned that Columbia Early College High School has around 80 students taking college classes in the fall.

“We had six or seven choose the fifth year last year. Daniel Garza became the encouraging voice from Columbia. He came on campus and he was only a few credits shy of finishing. He actually graduated with MaryAnn, but he did not graduate within that time frame. He had to pay for like one semester’s worth of classes. We were also very proud of him. I think the parents and students are getting the benefit of it,” said Hale.

Hale mentioned that associates in science and associates in arts degrees are available through Beaufort County Community College.

“They also can choose to do different degrees like cosmetology, automotives, and any of those specified degrees.  Those are two-year degrees. The hopes are that they are getting their high school degree and their two-year degree in five years,” said Hale.

Ramona Armstrong, MaryAnn’s mother, explained more details of Early College pptions for students.

“They sign up for classes with their middle school counselor. That is when they can apply for the early college program. If they get accepted into the early college program, they can start their ninth grade year. They do regular high school classes and they do an ACA class through Beaufort for a half a year in their freshman year. The other half they do their PE class and they can take other classes. They have to do a placement test in the ninth grade. They pass placement test and they can start taking Math and English classes,” said Ramona

Ramona mentioned that in MaryAnn’s graduating classes there were nine students that decided to stay for their fifth year available through Columbia Early College High School.

“This year MaryAnn did all of her classes online and she took a course through the Information Highway Room at the high school. She did a public speaking course.,” said

When students are in their fifth year they can either travel back and forth to Beaufort, or they can do online classes or they can go back on to the high school campus and take courses through the Information Highway Room.

“She came to campus here in Columbia on Monday,Wednesday, and Friday. She had class from 10 to 11 am with that course. The other four courses that she took were online. There were senior, juniors, and sophomores in that public speaking class. The professor was at Beaufort and they used something that was kind of like Skyping for the class,” said Ramona.

MaryAnn Armstrong commented on her experiences taking college courses through Beaufort County Community College.

“When I started my freshman year of high school, I was able to enroll in college courses.  I quickly learned I had to be organized and prioritize my responsibilities due to the college classes and extra-curricular activities in which I was involved.  Throughout the next four school years and summers, I continued to take college courses and successfully earned over 50 semester hours of college credits by the end of the 2014 school year,” said Armstrong.

In addition to the college courses, Armstrong earned credits in high school honor courses and was an active member of the athletic program and the marching band all four years.

“Along with the extra-curricular activities, I also volunteered my time and services for several school and community events and fundraisers and was an active participant in many school clubs and worked part time jobs.  My school work and college courses came first, then practices and club activities,” said Armstrong

Last April, Armstrong made the decision to continue with the 5th year option at CHS.  This gave her the opportunity to continue taking courses at Beaufort County Community College for free and gave her more time to figure out what she actually wanted to do.

“I have recently graduated from BCCC with an Associates in Arts; I have re-enrolled at BCCC and will start classes in August with the Cosmetology program.

The Early College program at CHS not only provided me the opportunity to obtain a college degree for free it also helped me to become more engaged in my studies and to be more responsible.  Without the academic and emotional support from my parents and family, I wouldn’t be the successful student I am,” said Armstrong.