By Alex Lippa
---- — HAVERHILL — Twenty Haverhill High students will have quite a workload this fall. While earning credits toward their high school diplomas, they will also earn college credits.
The students will participate in the Early College Program, a project run by Haverhill High School and Northern Essex Community College. The goal is for high school students to be better prepared for college, as well as get a head start on their college careers.
“We wanted to expand opportunities with the area colleges,” Haverhill School Superintendent James Scully said. “This is an opportunity for kids to experience life in a college classroom.”
Northern Essex isn’t necessarily looking to attract top-of-the-class honor students to the program, Scully said.
“We’re targeting students in the middle-of-the-pack academically,” said Sue Grolnic, dean of humanities and social sciences at Northern Essex. “We looked for students who had the aptitude to succeed, but hadn’t yet proven themselves academically. We want to raise the bar and help them realize that college is in their future.”
Students will have the opportunity to take three college level courses — U.S. History 1, American Literature 1, and the College Success Seminar. Each class will be taught at the high school by a member of the Northern Essex faculty.
These classes also give students the chance to already be familiar with the difficulty of college classes before they ever step foot in a college lecture hall, Scully said.
“A significant amount of college admission counselors tell me that the percentage of people who have to take remedial courses is significant,” he said. “This program is designed to alleviate some of the challenges that young people face their first year in college and the adjustment to higher-level course.”
The program began last year and was modeled after a program developed by Amesbury High School in 2009.
Students who take the college classes will receive credits they can use toward a college degree. Students who continue to take and pass these courses are able to gain a maximum of 48 college credits or a full year and a half of college.
Any student who participates in the program is required to pay $600. That cost was lowered from $900 a year ago, as a result of a series of grants. Only nine Haverhill High students participated in the program last year, so this year’s group is double that.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Scully. “It’s a significant increase and a lot of it is because we were able to get the cost down.”
Haverhill High School runs a similar program in conjunction with UMass-Lowell as well. Those classes are for students who are looking to get enriched studies in math, technology and science. There are about 20 students that participate in that program.