Onslow County Schools’ new early college high school opened Monday for the first day of class.
Career plans to be a doctor got a jump start Monday for Onslow County freshman Jalen Lucas.
Lucas began his first day of high school and is on his way to earning both his high school diploma and an associate’s degree in college by the time he graduates in four years.
It is an opportunity that is now possible through Onslow County Schools’ new early college high school, which opened its doors for the first time through a partnership with Coastal Carolina Community College.
“I want to be a doctor and medical school is eight years,” Lucas said. “I think I’ll be more prepared by having this experience and being on a college campus.”
Lucas is one of 54 Onslow County freshmen admitted to the first year of the early college, which occupies two classrooms in the Ragsdale Building on the college’s campus.
While their first day was just getting started, Lucas said it is exciting to be a part of something new.
“We’re part of a new experience and the first group of freshmen,” he said.
Classmate Omianna Chalmers said when she heard about the new program she saw an opportunity to further her education and put herself in better position to take advantage of job opportunities. It also helps that she’ll be able to earn college credit for free while with the early college.
It will be a rigorous four year as they tackle both their high school requirements and college courses but Chalmers is prepared to work hard.
“I like to believe I’m prepared but you just have to take each day and go with the flow,” she said.
It’s a journey they are just beginning.
“Right now it’s still new; we’re just getting started,” Chalmers said.
Jay Strope has taken on the duties as the early college’s first principal and as students began class for the first day as was as excited and nervous as the students.
“It’s that back to school experience that you always get as a principal or teacher as students return to class for the first day. On top of that we have the brand new experience with the early college,” Strope said.
Strope said that for their first two years, the students will be working in a contained area of the building, focusing primarily on their high school classes.
During their freshman and sophomore years, they’ll take three high school classes and one college class each semester. Strope said they’ll have physical education for a college class this semester and a computer science class next semester.
Their junior and senior years will be dedicated to taking college classes.
“What they will have their junior and senior year will be more like freshman and sophomore year of college,” Strope said.
Strope said that they’ll be working with students this year and at the start of their sophomore year to identify their career interests and potential college majors so that they can link them with the pathways they’ll follow as they transition to the college courses they’ll need.
Strope said the students will still be involved in academic competitions within the school district but there are some trade-offs that come with being part of the early college rather than being on the traditional high school campus.
The early college doesn’t have athletic teams or the band and orchestra programs that many students may be passionate about.
Strope said the students are focused on a long-term goal and have gone through a rigorous process to be enrolled in the early college.
Each student took a placement test and those who scored high enough went through an application process that included writing an essay and letters of recommendation.
English teacher Rebecca Huggins, who has been with Onslow County Schools since 2014 and was previously at Jacksonville High School, is excited to be at the early college.
“I’m really excited to be here. It is an opportunity for students to be exposed to college early and to take advantage of the resources here as well as within the school district,” Huggins said and she waited for her next class to begin.
The early college follows the schedule of Coastal Carolina Community College with a few added instructional days to meet North Carolina high school requirements.
Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at [email protected] or 910-382-2557.