Rising sophomores enrolled in East Mississippi Community College’s Golden Triangle Early High School pose along with school staff for a photo that accompanied acceptance letters to incoming freshmen who will start at the school in August. Photo by: Courtesy photo
June 23, 2016 10:31:19 AM
The number of students enrolled in the Golden Triangle Early College High School at East Mississippi Community College will double come August.
The 60 GTECHS freshmen wrapped up their first year last semester. This coming August, those students will move on to their sophomore year and 60 new freshmen who have already been accepted into the program will join their ranks.
"Our first year went really well," GTECHS Principal Jill Savely said. "All of our 9th grade students were promoted and will move on to the 10th grade."
GTECHS draws students from across the Golden Triangle. Of the 120-member student body for the 2016-2017 school year, 25 are from Columbus, 30 are from Lowndes County, 15 are from Noxubee County, 25 are from Starkville and 25 are from West Point.
GTECHS, the first early college high school in Mississippi, opened in the fall of 2015. The pilot program is the result of a partnership between EMCC, the Mississippi Department of Education and Mississippi State University.
"This innovative program is for students who may be first-generation college students, but they don't have the confidence to think they will do well," MDE Associate Superintendent Jean Massey said in a press release on the agency's website. "The school is also for students who need an alternative to the traditional high school setting."
Savely said for the first two years the GTECHS students attend classes together as they would at a traditional high school. In their junior and senior years, the bulk of their time is spent taking regular college courses. The majority of those courses are dual credit and count towards the students' high school diplomas and college degrees.
Early college high schools started gaining traction in the U.S. in the early 2000s with a major investment by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The schools are growing in popularity, with more than 200 now in existence nationwide.
Savely, who is a former Columbus High School principal, also said the school's small size is helpful from an administrative perspective.
"I think from an administrative standpoint, a principal in a really big school is disconnected from the students because the student body is so large and there are so many other things that demand attention," she said. "Here, I have an opportunity to connect with the students. They know my door is always open and that they can reach me by email or by phone."
The number of GTECHS students at EMCC will continue to grow. Next year, another group of 60 students will enroll, with 60 the following year.
"Eventually, we will have students enrolled in the Golden Triangle Early College High School through 12th grade," EMCC Vice President of Administration Dr. Paul Miller said.
Each class -- freshman, sophomore, junior and senior -- will consist of 60 students each for a total of 240 students, with that number remaining constant once all grades are full.
Savely said application to GTECHS is open to any eighth grade student -- whether they attend public or private school, or are homeschooled -- in Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee or Oktibbeha County. She said applications are usually available in January.
Last year GTECHS students chose the Wildcat as their school mascot and blue and gold as their school colors.
"When someone walks down the hall in that area we want them to know this is the Golden Triangle Early College High School," Miller said.
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