In the world of education, the month of May has developed its own special meaning. It’s the end of another school year, it’s the end of the final grading cycle, it’s the end of sitting through faculty meetings until next year. But for students, May is not always about endings.
If you are lucky enough to be a high school senior, the month of May is often more about new beginnings. It’s the beginning of adulthood, the beginning of responsibility, the beginning of post-high school plans as you step into the world of college life. But for 31 students at Ford High School in the Quinlan Independent School District, May of 2017 represented an entirely new type of beginning.
On Friday, May 12, under a rain-threatening sky, on a football field in Paris, Texas, those 31 seniors sat with hundreds of their college peers, each of them walking the stage to receive their college Associate Degree. Such a presentation is not uncommon in college life, except that this particular conferring of degrees occurred a full week before any of those seniors would actually receive their high school diploma. But for seniors in Quinlan ISD, this flip in time has become the norm.
Since 2009, the Quinlan ISD has maintained a successful educational partnership with Paris Junior College (PJC), and has developed a program that provides high school students the unique opportunity to pursue their college dreams while students are still enrolled in high school. Since the program’s inception, more than 5,000 college credits have been earned by Ford HS students. The 2017 class represents the largest number of students to receive their degree.
“The response to the program, both from the students and the Quinlan ISD community has been overwhelmingly positive,” Ms. Laurie Blair, Ford High School counselor, said. “Our goal has always been to equip our students with the skills they will need to further their post-secondary goals. The PJC program does exactly that.”
The two-year Associate Degree program has very stringent requirements. Students are required to enroll in traditional dual-credit courses like English, Math and Science, but are also required to take some of the more non-traditional coursework like Sociology, Mass Media, and Psychology. Whatever courses a normal college student who is pursuing their degree will take, the high school students will take as well. Students in the program gather every morning at 7:15, summers included, and board the standard yellow school bus to make the 45-minute drive to the PJC extension campus in Greenville, where they listen to college lectures, perform college experiments, and are responsible for college-level curriculum. Students then board the same bus for the return trip back to the Ford campus just in time for 3rd Period classes.
Many of the college students climb off the bus and immediately make their way to a campus computer lab for homework, for peer-collaboration opportunities, or to take a distance-learning college course, taught on-line by a college professor. Those same students are then required to finish out the school day by taking five more periods of high school courses as they continue their pursuit of their high school diploma. Completion of the program requires a tremendous amount of work and dedication from the students, but the results are worth the investment.
“The PJC program saved me both time and money. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity,” ’17 senior Levi Reeves, a PJC degree recipient, said. “Such a great program. Giving students an understanding of the college atmosphere is honestly invaluable help to all of us.”
“Such an awesome experience to walk across the stage and have my family show how proud they were of my accomplishment,” ’17 senior Candace Linn, a PJC degree recipient, said. “For the Quinlan district to provide this opportunity to students allows me to follow my plans to go to Stephen F. Austin University and pursue a nursing degree.”
~ Don Merkel, Principal
Ford High School