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High school seniors take college credit classes


June 30, 2008

Local high school students are getting a jump start on college, through an ASU partnership that allows them to take courses from ASU professors while still in high school. Nearly 100 high schoolers have taken Engineering 101 and 102, criminal justice, economics and other college-level courses over the past two years.

The Collegiate Scholars program was started two years ago as part of Access ASU, to increase the pipeline of Arizona students who attend ASU.

Students must be top high school seniors who meet requirements to attend the university, and who are interested in an ASU course that is connected to a major or career. The courses are taught by ASU faculty, for university credit.

Last fall, high school seniors took an engineering class after school at Desert Vista High School twice a week from professors Mark Henderson and Bob Hinks, getting to explore hands-on engineering. They designed and built their own rockets and computer-controlled robots.

Students from other high schools also enrolled in an engineering class at the Polytechnic campus this year, as well as a criminal justice class at the West campus.

“It was fun, not like a typical class,” says Brian Gobster, a 2008 Corona del Sol High School graduate who took the Polytechnic engineering class and is enrolled at ASU for the coming fall. “We built a rocket and a robot, so we used our academic skills.

“I thought taking the class would help integrate me into the college setting, so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed my first year. I’ll have about 14 hours of college credit when I start ASU this fall, with this program and my dual credits.”

Crystal Castro, who graduated from Maryvale High School in May, was intimidated when she enrolled in the criminal justice class at West last spring, but now feels more confident about attending ASU this fall. She and her brothers are first-generation college students.

“The course was pretty challenging, but I got through it,” she says. “Now I know what to expect. I got to know the other students, and I enjoyed the class. It sets me apart, having some college credit. I feel better about coming to campus.”

The cumulative grade-point average for their ASU coursework to date is 3.37. Three-quarters of the students have since gone on to ASU and maintained a GPA of 3.3.

“This gives students the chance to experience the academic rigor of a university, and to make an easier transition to college,” says Antonia Franco, director of Access ASU. “They can see the wealth of opportunities ASU offers, meet other students and feel engaged and a part of the university.

“It also allows colleges to showcase their top programs in a meaningful way to high school students. Once students have a first-hand experience in the discipline, they can select a major with more certainty.”

Brianna Burns, who just completed her freshman year at ASU, took Engineering 101 and 102 at the Polytechnic campus before graduating from Dobson High School.

She says the ASU courses were challenging but “extremely fun,” and they solidified her choice of an engineering major.

“The courses were extremely helpful in teaching students how to work in teams, and the importance of teamwork in completing complex projects,” Burns says. “If I was still in high school I would love the opportunity to take more ASU classes offered by the Collegiate Scholars program.”

Anna Battle, principal at Desert Vista, was instrumental in bringing the program to her high school last year, along with Desert Vista technology chair Dan Zavaleta. The two even worked with ASU to create a pre-engineering course, to prepare their top students for the rigors of a college class. Next fall Desert Vista will host another ASU engineering class, and may open it to students from other high schools.

“This is the very beginning of what we hope to be a huge relationship with ASU,” says Dr. Battle. “We’re in the baby stages, but we want to see it grow. We’re excited about the possibilities.

“It’s a new type of partnership, one that benefits our students and our teachers. We’re looking at working with other units at ASU, to give opportunities to all types of kids.”