Education Matters: High school students take college courses in dual enrollment

FRESNO, California - In an anthropology class at Fresno City College, 18-year-old Maryana Amesquita looks no different than any other student. But there is something unique about her. She is still in high school.

“It’s just like mind-blowing. I would never expect of myself like 10 years ago that I would be so prepared for college,” Amesquita said.

Amesquita is a senior at Design Science High School, a specialty school in the fresno unified school district. It allows students to concurrently enroll at Fresno City College and earn college credits.

“It’s been a great experience. When I first started my freshman year, I was really nervous about it because I didn’t know how I was going to integrate myself with college students and people older than me, but once you got to it you realize you just focus on the content and why are you doing it,” Amesquita said.

It can be a high-level course like advanced math or a vocational education course – you will find high school students sitting in the classroom.

Instructor Richard Schmelz says he has 10 Fresno High School students in his heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) classes.

“The high schoolers coming onto the college campus – No. 1 they are going to be a step above and beyond people coming off the street into the college,” Schmelz said.

More and more students and their high schools are choosing dual enrollment programs, which allows students to earn college credits while still in high school.

“When we look and see how many students are coming to Fresno City College through our dual enrollment partnerships – when I first started here, we had a few hundred – now we have over 2,000,” college President Carole Goldsmith said. “That’s 2,000 young individuals who have the seed of hope and the desire for knowledge because they understand education changes lives.”

Goldsmith supports dual enrollment and says the college has partnerships with not only Fresno Unified but Central and Kerman school districts.

“Students who show the aptitude and the desire and the promise we have a promise for you and that promise is dual enrollment,” Goldsmith said.

The latest institution to join the partnership is CTEC – a new career technical high school chartered by the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. It opens this fall, and the opportunity to graduate with college credit is a huge draw for students looking to enroll.

“One of the most things I liked about this school is it gave me the possibility to go into a career as soon as I get out of high school, and just being able to have any college credits when I get out of high school is just crazy to think about it,” said Nicholas Noble, 14.

Victoria Martinez is the dual enrollment coordinator at Fresno City College and works with every high school. She says the average student graduates with 30 to 40 college credits. CTEC has an ambitious goal.

“We worked closely with CTEC to make sure that the plans for the students to be able to achieve a two year degree along with their high school diploma is completely embedded in the curriculum so the student will start out from their freshman year to their senior year when they finish they will have a two-year degree,” Martinez said.

Martinez says while this can be done, but it won’t be easy.  Students are also working to meet their high school requirements at the same time.

CTEC has hired college-level instructors to teach on their campus and administrators say both teacher and student will get lots of support.

“One of the things that we do within the subjects that are dual enrollment courses is that we provide them with another individual that is in that class kind of like your team teaching,” said Jonathan Delano, director of CTEC. “You have the core teacher that is prepared and is the adjunct teacher from Fresno City College that is teaching the class but then we also have somebody who is well versed in that subject area and they come along to support the teacher, support the student as they take that material.”

Educators will tell you dual enrollment is not for everyone but students who take on the challenge will see benefits in college and career.

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