(left to right) Pasadena Early College High School students Leslie Araujo, Eva Fuentes, Cynthia Maldonado, and Edward Luna. Photo credit: Jeannie Peng-Armao, San Jacinto College marketing department
Early college high school offers Pasadena families first chance at college
Jeannie Peng-Armao -- February 4, 2013
PASADENA, Texas – Three years ago, ninth-grader Eva Fuentes had the goal of learning English, graduating high school, and then finding work.
Now, thanks to her hard work in school, her goals have changed a bit. She is one of 113 students taking advantage of an agreement between San Jacinto College and the Pasadena Independent School District (ISD) that offers students the chance to earn both a high school diploma and associate degree while in high school.
"I came here from El Salvador three years ago," said Eva, who lives in the United States with her father, while her mother and two brothers live in El Salvador. "I never thought I'd be in college. I've always thought of going to work. When I told my mom over the phone about this opportunity, she cried and was really proud of me."
Targeting bright economically disadvantaged students, and not necessarily on test scores, the two-year-old Pasadena Early College High School (PECHS) is already making a significant dent in preparing students who are the first college-goers in their families. Early results indicate an increase on the COMPASS college readiness exam in 10th-grade reading. In 2011, 53 percent scored high enough for college classes. By summer 2012, 100 percent received high enough scores in reading to take college-level courses.
"The Pasadena Early College High School program provides a unique opportunity to embed college into the everyday fabric of Pasadena High School (PHS) and into the lives of students who might not otherwise earn a post-secondary degree," said Jaynie Mitchell, director of dual enrollment at San Jacinto College. "Although the program is only in year two of its existence, the PECHS students, as a group, are already out-performing their peers on standardized tests in many areas, such as reading, writing, and science."
It's about providing students with a chance to challenge themselves academically with a rigorous pre-advanced placement curriculum. Adding college-level work as early as the ninth grade supports development of high level critical thinking, time management, and cooperative learning skills. The early college high school opportunity is provided to PECHS students free of charge, with tuition, books, transportation, and classroom space provided by Pasadena ISD. San Jacinto College waives 55 percent of the tuition cost and fees and provides an educational planner housed at PHS.
The early college high school program offers an alternative option to a population comprised of 81 percent first-time college students.
"It’s a lot of work, but I see the advantage of being here and how it prepares me for what I would like to do," said 10-grader Cynthia Maldonado. "One day, I want to buy my mom a big house and help her go back to school because she really likes accounting."
Pasadena ECHS students have the opportunity to earn up to 62 college credit hours and an associate degree while still in high school. They may select from a variety of degree plans that lead to a myriad of baccalaureate and post-graduate degree opportunities and careers. There is even a program of study for students who wish to apply for the San Jacinto College nursing program after high school graduation.
Students who do not complete their degree program prior to high school graduation can focus on becoming what schools refer to as core complete by earning at least 50 college credit hours of academic core classes.
Another benefit of the early college high school is how students tend to become more academically and career focused. Eva hopes to one day become a school teacher. Her classmates have all chosen career dreams of their own. Ninth-grader Eduardo Luna wants to become a pediatrician, and 10th-grader Leslie Araujo wants to be a nurse. Meanwhile, Cynthia is focusing on a career in psychology, along with some day, helping her mother to pursue her own college education in accounting.
To find out more about the Pasadena Early College High School and San Jacinto College, visit www.sanjac.edu/dual-credit.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.