Taking college-level courses before graduation from high school is inspiring both Douglas High School students and administers alike. Through a partnership with the Western Nevada College Jump Start College program, seniors at Douglas High can complete 12 college credits by the time they receive their high school diploma.
Douglas Principal Marty Swisher said itâ€™s a catalyst that Douglas High School administrators are counting on to inspire their students and give them confidence to pursue a higher education.
â€œWe view Jump Start as one of a number of opportunities for our students to achieve their potential and to graduate,â€ said. â€œThe Jump Start program and courses we offer fit in with our mission and the direction of the state to prepare students for college and career readiness.
â€œFor students who are prepared for the rigors of college coursework, it is the next step they should be taking. Working to have a range of opportunities for all students is one of our goals, and the Jump Start program fits within it and benefits students who participate.â€
Two years ago, Douglas, along with Carson, Churchill, Lyon and Storey school districts, were approached by WNC about participating in the Jump Start College concept of dual credit for their students. It was an opportunity for students not enrolled in Advancement Placement classes to earn college credits before graduation at a minimal cost.
â€œWe anticipate that the academic success and high standards that Douglas High has produced translate perfectly into the Jump Start College program,â€ said WNC Dean of Student Services John Kinkella. â€œDouglas High School and the Douglas County School District have been strong, long-standing partners with Western Nevada College. Superintendent Teri White and Principal Marty Swisher, in particular, have been terrific advocates for student success.â€
Already aware of Jump Startâ€™s impressive record of succeeding in other districts around the country, Swisher definitely was intrigued about the prospect of launching the program at Douglas High.
â€œAt Douglas High, we have opportunities to take Advance Placement English and mathematics classes that may count for college credit, but we have a group of students who were not taking those type of courses and who were ready for the challenge of college-level work,â€ Swisher said. â€œThis was our target group for the two years we have had the Jump Start program.â€
At some point, Douglas would like to offer Jump Start to its juniors. Currently, seniors can take English 101 and 102, as well as Math 126 and 127.
â€œWe have talked with WNC and other high schools in Northern Nevada who have expanded programs and course offerings, and we are looking at options in the future to add college-level dual credit courses that could provide students an opportunity to earn an AA degree by the time they graduate,â€ Swisher said.
Douglas seniors embraced and succeeded in Jump Start in its pilot year in 2014-15. Nine-sixty percent of students passed the four classes available to them.
â€œStudents appreciated the experience of having college-level instruction while receiving tutoring support and guidance,â€ Swisher said. â€œThe success and leaving high school having already met two foundational college requirements was appreciated by students and their families alike. In a couple of cases, students were the first in their family to attend college, and to have a supported experience was extremely encouraging for these students. Both have gone on to college/university and are doing well, thanks to the classes they were able to take in high school.â€
Some high schools in WNCâ€™s Jump Start College program launched the dual credit academic program with instruction in their own schools. Others, including Douglas, began the program by having their seniors taught at a WNC campus. In the coming year, Jump Start students will remain on the High School campus to take their Jump Start, a move that they see as a better fit.
â€œMany students expressed that being away from the high school made them feel a bit isolated and disconnected from their friends and activities such as pep rallies and other special events,â€ Swisher said.
Consequently, in year two, Douglas and WNC decided to allow the Jump Start students to take their classes at the high school.
â€œThis has gone well and both students and the instructors find it beneficial,â€ Swisher said.
Minimizing the costs to Jump Start students has also been a concern for the school district. Students and their families are responsible for tuition fees for the first semester, but for students who pass those classes, the school district picks up the fees for the second semester.
â€œOur goal is to offer this great opportunity for students while keeping the cost as low as possible,â€ Swisher said.
That investment has been well worth it as Swisher has seen those Jump Start students persevere with their education after graduation.
â€œAn important reward is having students who may not have considered college or werenâ€™t certain about their plans after high school, experience college coursework and achieve and mature,â€ he said. â€œMost of the students who complete the Jump Start program enroll directly into two- or four-year education programs, and they already have college experience and credits to help them achieve more success.â€