NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Vying for a college degree takes 13 years of hard work and dedication, but for 81 lucky Nacogdoches High School freshman and sophomore students, the prize might be easily more attainable.
This week, NISD—among several other districts across the nation—celebrated its Early College High School program. While only in its second year at NISD, the ECHS program is giving several students the chance to get their 60 college core credits by the time they graduate high school.
Sophomore Emily Gonzales says this is her second semester in the program, and by the time she's a senior she'll have completed two years of college.
"In a lot of ways it's easier than high school class. We go to the college class and they have a syllabus that lays out when everything is due instead of a high school class where they remind you when this is due and when that's due," Gonzales said. "The college class has just a schedule that you have to follow and it's a lot easier than having the high school schedule because you know exactly when it's due and you don't have to worry about when's this due?"
According to a press release, NISD ECHS Principal Tim Millican says ECHS's goal is "to get students, who are traditionally underrepresented, comfortable with the college-going culture; so when they graduate high school, they will not only want to go to college, but know how to complete college."
The program allows students to actually go take a class at Stephen F. Austin University.
"We have a college class and our college teachers treat us like normal college students and they don't treat us like high school students or baby us," Gonzales said.
But getting into the program isn't easy. First, the students have to apply for the program, and get picked through a random drawing. Second, they have to take the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, a college exam for reading and writing.
"Our first year, we had to take a speech class and that sort of sets us up for how everything was supposed to work in college because we got to see how they were going to run things and how we had to adapt," Gonzales said.
Gonzales says she loves her college class and really feels as if she is already a college student. She says she doesn't feel out of place on the college campus, even though she's still relatively young.
"In a lot of ways, it's prepared us for pushing us into the situation and just adapt to it, and, of course, we have tutorials and we have Mr. Millican and Mrs. Jones help out and if we have a problem we can immediately go to them and it makes everything a little bit easier," Gonzales said.
52 eighth graders have been accepted to attend the program next year.
For more information, visit nacisd.org.