After reading the WBTV news story about Isaiah Woods on Facebook earlier this month, I was inspired by his big dreams and the steps he’s taking to reach them. Isaiah is a senior at Salisbury High School and has already been accepted to Stanford University. In order to better prepare himself for this transition, he has attended summer school at Harvard and taken college-level classes at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. The opportunity to take college-level classes at Rowan-Cabarrus is available to all high-schoolers in the county through their Career & College Promise program, and is a tremendous way to get college credit and real-world experience before graduation. These courses can lead to a certificate, diploma or degree, as well as provide entry-level job skills.
In North Carolina, there’s always been this type of program, but about three to four years ago it changed its name to Career & College Promise. Years ago, it was more career and technical driven rather than general education. Since it is a state-funded program, the state is constantly looking at the program and revising it.
What Does it Take to be in the Program?
The current program is tuition free to all juniors and seniors who maintain a 2.8 grade point average and meet other eligibility requirements. There are two pathways under the Career & College Promise umbrella: Career and Technical Education Pathway (CTE), which leads to a certificate or diploma aligned with a high school career cluster, and the College Transfer Pathway, which allows the completion of at least 30 semester hours of transfer courses and is perfect for students who want to get some of those general education courses under their belt before attending a four-year university.
A Perfect Example of the Program
Jonathan Spry, a senior at North Rowan High School, is part of the automotive CTE pathway through Career & College Promise. He spends his morning at Rowan-Cabarrus and then heads over to North Rowan to complete his high school graduation requirements. After high school, he knows he wants to be a mechanic, so when his friend at Rowan-Cabarrus told him about the program, he knew he had to do it! “Taking these automotive classes in high school will improve my skills to help me be a step ahead,” he says.
He says his favorite part about the automotive program is the environment. “Everyone gets along with one another, and the teachers do a great job preparing you for the real world. I learned a lot more than I thought I could in just one semester.”
Quadruplets Take on the College & Career Promise
The Larson quadruplets, students at East Rowan High School, are all currently participating in the College Transfer Pathway through Career & College Promise. Hannah said she wanted to be involved because it would offer a more flexible schedule to do her work and be able to obtain college credits, and also to save money when she goes off to college.
Zoe Larson has dreams of becoming an Athletic Trainer for a well-known organization or professional sports team. She says this program is helping her prepare for that career by allowing her to get her general-education requirements out of the way now, so that she can jump right into her major classes when she gets to college.
In the Career & College Promise program, all general education courses are transferrable to any N.C. public school, and a lot of private schools accept them as well.
A Jump Start Towards the Right Direction
Crystal Ryerson, the Marketing and Enrollment Manager at Rowan-Cabarrus, credits the Career & College Promise program as a “great opportunity for students to get a jump start on their college education.” She says it gives students that foundational momentum towards going to college or whatever that next step might be for them.
In addition to the tuition-free college courses, there are other valuable lessons high schoolers can learn through this program. I distinctly remember that when I got to college, I did not feel like I was prepared with the study and organizational skills necessary to succeed, so I had to teach that to myself to be successful. If I could go back and do high school over, I would definitely take some college courses beforehand to go ahead and build those skills. I’m jealous of the kids in RoCo who have the opportunity to take these classes and already have those healthy habits established!
Hannah Larson says “This is a serious program and time management is definitely necessary, but it’s totally worth it! I definitely feel better prepared for future college classes.”
Ella Larson says the freedom to manage her own time is her favorite part of the program.
“Through this program, I’ve learned the importance of allowing myself breaks in order to not overwhelm myself,” she says.
“In Rowan County,” Crystal Ryerson remarks, “we have lots of students who would be first-generation college students who don’t fully know if they are college bound. This program gives them early insight into what college looks like and makes them work towards higher aspirations.”
Oh, How We’ve Grown!
The program has grown tremendously in the last three years; there’s been a 49% increase since Fall 2017 in both Rowan and Cabarrus counties. In Rowan alone, it’s increased by 35%.
“For the fall semester of 2019, we had just shy of 600 students, and we are on target to continue to grow this program and hit about 700 Rowan County students in the Spring,” Ryerson says.
“There are a lot more students that are becoming aware of this program which makes me excited, because even though the classes are difficult, it will certainly be worth it in the end,” Zoe says. “For me, managing the classes, not procrastinating, and taking mental breaks to have fun, really helps me finish the coursework without being overwhelmed with a lot of work at once.”
For those who are interested in the program but not quite sold on it yet, Jonathan says to just go for it and take a class! “The teachers will give you everything you need to be successful.”
Crystal Ryerson explained, “The bottom line is, this program is a great opportunity. There are lots of students in Rowan County who we can serve and help get a jump start, and that’s what we want to do! My daughter participated in this program, so I have personally saved money from it, and she felt like she was better prepared for college because of it. I’ve heard that same story from numerous students.”
If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or cousin of a high schooler in Rowan County, encourage them to look into this great opportunity! It is tuition FREE and could lead them to a future career! If you are a student, what are you waiting for? Talk to your guidance counselor about the Career & College Promise program at Rowan-Cabarrus TODAY!
Find out more at https://www.rccc.edu/highschool/!