When Aaron Penny first arrived here on the campus of Johnston Community College as a high school freshman, he was terrified. He had no idea if he could succeed in this early college program that sought out at-risk minority teens with promise who were also likely the first in their families to set foot on a college campus.
At this program in rural North Carolina, students take high school and college courses at the same time.
“At first I thought it was very scary, because it’s college and I hadn’t even done high school yet,” Penny, 15, said. “But then once I got into the college program I realized this is a lot of fun and it’s not as scary as it seems.”
He is one of the 250 students at Johnston County Early College Academy, part of the North Carolina New Schools network of 78 programs. Students who successfully finish graduate with two degrees: a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.
Mississippi will offer its own program for the first time in August when the Golden Triangle Early College High School opens on the campus of East Mississippi Community College with 62 students. Nearby Mississippi State University will partner with the school to contribute research to the program.
Modeled after the North Carolina schools, Golden Triangle in Mayhew will serve students in four counties. The school will be funded through the same law that funds all public schools in the state, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
The school’s budget is still being worked out, said Golden Triangle Principal Jill Savely.
She said she visited the Johnston school three years ago and wanted Mississippi students to be given that kind of opportunity.
“It was amazing to see kids talk about these traditional high schools and how they weren’t successful,” said Savely, formerly principal of Columbus High School. “I thought if there’s ever a chance to do this, I want to be a part of that.”
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