My belief in the necessity of an equitable education is summed up in my motto: “all-in for all students.” When students achieve, we all achieve and are inspired to strive for greater success. At Pelion High School (PHS), we are proud of our quality programs that elevate each student; from At-Promise to AP, we have a plethora of programs to support students’ social, emotional, behavioral, and academic needs.
Experiencing College Success
One program that I am most proud of is our robust dual-enrollment program. Over the last six years, we have gone from zero dual-enrollment courses on our campus to offering nineteen courses in seven departments. For many communities, this dual enrollment is a given; it’s a part of the course catalog and is offered each year without fail. Located in rural South Carolina, we face unique challenges common only to a school with our socioeconomic makeup. For most of the students enrolled in our dual-enrollment courses, they are first-generation high school graduates. Many of them don’t have their own transportation, and college is a dream that doesn’t make much financial sense. Being able to offer our students college success, with the financial, academic, and social support system already in place is life-changing. As a matter of fact, it is community-changing.
Attributed to our large community, guardian, and faculty and staff support, last year approximately one-third of our senior class experienced college success in high school and graduated with a combined total of 468 college credits. This fall, several of them entered college as sophomores.
PHS began this journey by having a very frank conversation with ourselves about the challenges such a lofty goal would present. We started by speaking with our stakeholders. Our School Improvement Council was immediately receptive and excited about our idea to provide these opportunities. From there, we allowed their excitement to ignite others’ passion. With the support of our strong parent advocates, we looked to our next challenge: finding professors willing to travel the distance to our school. Knowing that the travel would present a major issue, I surveyed the faculty to determine who would be eligible to teach at the collegiate level.
With that information in hand, we set out to provide the beginning stages of a college education for all students. It has taken several years, but the dedication of our faculty and community means our dual enrollment has increased from 12 credit hours earned in 2015–16 to 196 credit hours by students for the 2018–19 school year. While our students rightfully appreciate the free college credit, AP weighting, college student discounts, access to college amenities, and reduced time in college, as their assistant principal and biggest advocate, I appreciate the confidence each student gains from achieving a feat they once deemed impossible.
As a passionate instructional leader, it is my mission to build on our existing dual-enrollment success, and it is my goal to push forward to pursue the creation of a middle college so our seniors may graduate with a diploma and an associate’s degree. This opportunity will create another path for success and will have a positive economic impact on our community.
My middle college vision will require growth from teachers and students, advocacy from administration, and support from district, town, and county leaders. As students seize these opportunities, enthusiasm will spread, and our students and community will benefit as we wield education that breaks the cycle of poverty.
Challenge to Get Started
Starting a dual-enrollment program is challenging and tough, but our students are worth this extra effort. Here are some tips for school leaders who are interested in starting or expanding a dual-enrollment program:
- Meet with faculty, staff, and community stakeholders to solicit ideas and discuss potential student, school, and community benefits.
- Contact your local community college and university to discuss potential courses, entrance requirements, and logistics.
- Advertise and hold information sessions for students and parents.
- Administer a Masters or above survey to faculty to identify possible in-house instructors.
What will you do to create the college opportunities for your students?
Erica Page is an assistant principal at Pelion High School in Pelion, SC. She began her career as a teacher in Lexington County School District One and also served as an assistant administrator before her promotion to assistant principal. In 2016, she was a finalist for the South Carolina Association of School Administrators Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year Award. In 2018 she was named South Carolina Association of School Administrators Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year, and four months later she was named the 2018 National Assistant Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Follow her on Twitter @EricaHPage.