Maloney High School student, Michael Gulino, shows a graph he created for a UConn statistics course.|(Eve Britton/record-Journal)
September 9, 2013 01:05AM
By Eve Britton
High school students have long been able to get college credit by taking Advanced Placement courses, but through new relationships with community colleges and four-year schools, students throughout the region are now able to get credit through vocational classes as well.
Some of the courses are available at the community colleges, some online and some right at their own high schools.
“The beauty of this is they’re developing college transcripts while still in high school and saving mom and dad some money,” said Zen Popko, counseling director at Sheehan High School in Wallingford.
At Sheehan and Lyman Hall high schools in Wallingford, students can get credit for taking automotive, child development and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes, school officials said.
The schools have a relationship with Gateway Community College in New Haven and Middlesex Community College in Middletown.
To receive the credits in the CNA program, students start in their junior year and must be enrolled in four years of English, and take algebra and biology before being eligible, he said.
If the students get above a B minus in the academic classes, those credits transfer as well. Students can get a CNA license while still in high school, provided they pass the state exam.
“I think it’s wonderful because it puts the students in a situation where they are not just learning the content of their field but it gives them exposure to other fields that are out there, like x-ray technician or other health-related careers,” Popko said.
And going to the actual schools for classes also has its advantages, students said.
“It was a really good experience. It was definitely more than AP courses could have prepared you for,” said Rebekah Hall, a senior at Maloney High School in Meriden, who took psychology through Middlesex College last year.
“This way you’re on a college campus,” she said. “You have more responsibility on you and no one talks in class. I liked it.”
Senior Briana Alicea took media studies online last year and this year is taking social psychology online through Wesleyan University in Middletown.
“It’s difficult to balance school work plus online work,” Alicea said. “I wish I’d paid more attention to the readings, not just for the p.r. (public relations) part, but the other parts as well, to broaden my horizons.”
At Lyman Hall, where there is an automotive classroom, students get credits at Gateway and at Lyman Hall for taking automotive classes. They also have to take the academic classes, just as at Sheehan, said Juliann Iaiennaro, who works in career and technology education curriculum at Lyman.
“It doesn’t cost anything, there’s no extra work and it saves a little time and extra money,” Iaiennaro said. “When they have four or five college level classes under their belt, they can get out into the workforce quicker, a whole semester early.”
Sheehan students have to travel to Lyman for the automotive classes because it has an auto shop, but other than that, students can earn the credits without leaving the schools.
Cheshire High School, as well as Maloney and Platt in Meriden, have agreements with the University of Connecticut where students can take UConn classes at their high schools for $25 a credit, versus at least $1,200 per class at the university, said Vannessa Montorsi, counseling department leader at Cheshire.
“It’s definitely a good opportunity for kids who can cut out a semester or year of college if they map it out,” she said.
Cheshire offers 10 classes that can provide students with the transfer credits.
The teachers have to have specialized training and are actually considered UConn faculty, as well as faculty at their respective high schools.
The students follow UConn curriculum and take the same tests given to students at the college.
While the classes are considered AP, the students don’t have to take the AP tests to get the credit, they just have to get a 70 percent or above for it, Montorsi added.
At Maloney and Pratt, students can also take child development classes through a partnership with the YMCA preschool and Middlesex.
“The preschool classes are right next door to us and the preschool kids work directly with our kids,” said Rob Montemurro, Platt High School principal. “Our kids are getting the experience of working with the younger kids. It’s enriching and its a great opportunity for the little kids who become part of our school.”
He added that because of the high cost of post-secondary education, the schools are always looking for ways to help students out.
“We always push for more students to take the classes, not just for the rigorousness of the programs, but for the savings,” Montorsi said.
Louis Brunk, assistant principal at Maloney, said it also helps students get a feel for academic life after high school.
“It helps them be more successful in college because they’re learning more of what is needed,” he said. “And, it gives them a jump start on what they want to do,” he said.
The programs also help tailor the high school experience more to students’ individual desires.
“As a district, we’re always looking for ways to personalize the high school experience,” Brunk said. “We’re always looking for opportunities to get kids involved in what they want.”