Getting a head start on college at Early College

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(left) Amari Lesesne and Jazmen Calhoun

• April 25, 2013

Just thinking about Rochester Early College International High School student Amari Lesesne’s schedule makes one tired. Last year, Amari, pictured to the left, began her day at Early College (on the old Madison campus). From there she took a bus to Monroe Community College’s Brighton Campus where she would be the only high school student in her Communications class. The next stop was St. John Fisher where she joined several fellow RECIHS students taking a Psychology course. And she loved every minute of it.

We are bombarded with news that upon graduation RCSD students are not ready for higher education, and it only seems to be getting worse. Rochester Early College is doing all it can to reverse this negative trend.

As one of only 15 schools in New York State using the early college model, RECIHS provides opportunities for its qualified students to earn up to 20 non-matriculating college credits from MCC and SJF. Given the financial pressure of attending college, those credits can save students valuable time and money. As importantly, exposure to college level material prepares students for a full course load when they do matriculate, as well as allowing them to see where they need to improve.

Not all RECIHS students earn on-campus college credit while in high school. But the existence of the program itself helps create a more serious academic tone throughout the school.  Even if a student does not attend MCC or SJF, he/she is expected to be fully prepared for higher education. Furthermore, the program makes teaching more rewarding, as teachers actually see students succeeding at the next level.

Since day one back in September 2010, Principal Marlene Blocker has seen the positive effects of the early college model. She began her career as an elementary school principal where she wanted to make sure all students had the necessary tools to be successful in high school. However, she recounts; “when I would see my former students later on in life, I saw that many of them had fallen through the cracks. I wanted to correct this trend and provide high school students with the opportunity to be successful as long as they were willing to work hard and believed in themselves.”   Planting the college seed as a goal from the outset is one step in the right direction.

To accomplish this,  Blocker’s  mission was to create a small school environment with high standerds  in place for every scholar.  As she says, “I wanted students to be surrounded by adults who knew them as individuals and would be able to tailor supports to meet their personal needs.  We have created a community of caring, supportive people  working to help one another rise to the top.  I believe that each and every child will be successful when the environment that educates them is perceptive of their needs and holds them accountable to high expectations.”  At RECIHS,  that mission is being accomplished.

Next year, junior Jazmen Calhoun, pictured to the right, will be a taking a class at  MCC-Damon. I asked her if she was nervous. She said a little, but after watching Amari make it through, Jazmen thinks she also has what it takes. Principal Blocker would no doubt agree.