April 20, 2017 at 3:04 p.m.
Anne Nelson, Lindsey Albrecht and Jesseca Fusco are earning Minnesota State College and University system (MNSCU) associate degrees, at the same time they receive their high school diploma-- and they didn’t even need to leave the high school building to achieve this.
Chisago Lakes High School Principal David Ertl participated in an interview with the young women and he could not have been prouder of them if they’d been his own. As an institution, the high school can give itself a pat on the back for helping the hardworking intelligent young ladies achieve this milestone. This is a shining example of what public school has to offer: a valuable incentive for gifted pupils to challenge themselves, he said.
Amy Malloy, counselor at Chisago Lakes High School, also pointed out that the opportunity to earn your first two years’ of college credits at no cost-- is a significant financial bonus for district families.
Mankato State, for example, charges about $280 per credit. Nelson, Albrecht and Fusco each racked-up 60 credits in completing their associate degree. Add two years of travel/transit, room-and-board and the “value added” aspect of this opportunity grows exponentially, Principal Ertl observed.
Chisago Lakes has developed the program off one that was begun in Minnesota years ago offering state college transfer curriculum credits and/or Advanced Placement study.
This continues to be an option for some students, but the downside was one of being limited as to the number of colleges and universities accepting the credits. Students can still participate in these programs though, chalking-up assorted individual college credits.
Chisago Lakes cooperates with a number of higher learning MNSCU facilities for the required on-line learning courses, with Lake Superior College being the “biggest partner” said Ertl. At Wildcat commencement there will most likely be a LSC representative personally awarding the three AA degrees. Credentialed high school teachers also instruct in some of the goal areas.
Chisago Lakes High School students now choose from about 120 college level course selections from a list that numbered in the 20s a short while back.
Ertl’s vision, he explained, was to enable students to move beyond learning to answer a test question correctly-- to being immersed in a college course package calling for mature organizational and big picture skills.
“This includes career tech-ed courses as well,” Ertl stressed. Not all pupils in this program have to be “four year college bound.” Many will go on to earn a living just with their AA degree vocational or service provider skills. Others, like Albrecht, can potentially use this to trim a couple years off what is shaping up to be several years in school. She is interested in biology or psychology degrees and then maybe law school.
Ertl makes note that this AA Degree discipline checks all his boxes, because students don’t have to leave the school grounds.
“We manage to capture the best and the brightest,” Ertl commented, “and keep them here, where they can still be active in extra-curricular programs and organizations” The three ladies were involved in activities that enhance any school dynamics; ie: National Honor Society, Compassion Collection Drive, BPA, Link Crew and band, alpine skiing, swimming and tennis, to name a few.
MNSCU schools that the three have checked into (all are uncommitted at this point) will still require them as incoming juniors-- to take one or two freshman mandated classes-- but that’s okay with them.
Albrecht thinks it’ll be a good way to make a connection with the freshman experience.
Nelson said St. Catherine’s, (all three have this school on their radar) is relatively small, so she isn’t too concerned about missing out on relationships made in the freshman year. She is interested in pursuing environmental studies.
Fusco has a goal of obtaining an English degree. She hopes that entering into any college at the junior level means class sizes will be smaller and the pecking order for registering will be more accommodating than what incoming freshmen endure. All of them said organizing their time and juggling schedules to stay on-track for all 60 credits wasn’t easy.
It was mentioned more than once by all, that going through this together (two of them are finishing the same astronomy class right now) added a dimension of support and even a little friendly scholarly competition.
School staff were integral too. Fusco said it was actually Malloy, who was recording their earned college-in-school credits in her counselor’s log---who discovered they were close to what was required for the AA degree. Malloy played a navigator role when she saw fulfilling requirements for the AA degree were well within reach.
Breaking that ground was a pleasure with these three, Malloy offered. She looks forward for May to arrive, when she’ll have the credit counts and data to start identifying candidates for a two-year degree in the Class of 2018.
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