Early college program challenges me to grow

By Emily Martinez

In 2007, W.W. Samuell High School in Pleasant Grove faced the prospect of closing down. The school had a graduation rate of 36 percent.

At that point, the closure seemed inevitable. But Jennifer Tecklenburg said developing an early college program with Eastfield helped turn the school around.

“Early college high school has been something that we can use to promote higher standards,” said Tecklenburg, principal of the Samuell Early College High School at Eastfield.

The early college program began at Samuell in the fall of 2012. Freshmen and sophomore students take advanced placement high school courses and then transition to Eastfield for their junior and senior years, where they take college courses.

The system is designed for high school students to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree.

May 2016 is the first year Samuell High School students will walk the stage with other Eastfield College students and receive their degrees. Then, in June, the students will graduate from high school.

Although it is an amazing advantage, it can have its ups and downs.

Jose “Tito” Lopez said the program is great but demanding. Lopez is a kind and spirited senior who is in the top 1 percent in his class. While at Samuell, Lopez played football.

“My main focus has always been education,” Lopez said, “I always put my social life second. As much as I love football, I had to get out of it because I couldn’t keep up with it. It takes a lot of sacrifice.”

Early college is not only a way to get free college education and acquire a degree faster, but it is also a way to gain exposure to the challenges of college and life. Students learn to manage their time and prioritize.

I remember walking into my English 1301 class and looking around for my fellow classmates so I could sit next to them. To my surprise, I was the only teenager in there.

Twenty pairs of eyeballs stared at me, and I knew right then that I didn’t belong.

I felt like a joke walking into that class. I would complain to the teachers and my friends on how I was stuck in a class for an hour and 20 minutes with adults. I finished up that course with a B.

Even though I only spoke about three times the entire semester, I understood why I thought I didn’t belong. I was afraid of succeeding in a group that I was unfamiliar with. Early college has brought me into a special place where I have learned to see myself not as an outcast but as someone who can improve as a person and student. That’s all that early college is about.

Emily Martinez is a Samuell High School junior and a student in the Early College High School at Eastfield.

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