WEST JEFFERSON —Two Ashe County High School students recently made history by becoming the first high school students to participate in the Wilkes Community College (WCC) graduation as commencement marshals.
Wilkes Community College Associate Vice President Chris Robinson recognized the two students at the Ashe County Board of Education meeting on Monday, June 1.
ACHS seniors Courtney Williams and Abby Lopp both participated in the WCC commencement ceremony on May 15 as marshals before graduating from high school.
According to Robinson, 15 out of 1,000 eligible students at WCC were chosen to be marshals.
Williams and Lopp are both participants of Career and College Promise, which is a dual-enrollment program that allows high school juniors and seniors to begin college-level work in an affordable way.
Williams completed 16 credit hours in the fall and 15 credit hours in the spring. She will attend Appalachian State University in the fall.
Lopp completed 13 credit hours in the fall and 14 credit hours in the spring. She completed a total of 44 hours of credit during her junior and senior year and completed the associates in arts transfer pathway. Lopp will attend East Tennessee State University in the fall.
According to Robinson, both students completed the college courses in addition to their regular high school classes and saved $11,000 in college tuition and fees.
Robinson also explained to the board how the community is impacted from the program and how it helps prepare students for the college transition.
“We always have students that come back year after year and tell us how this helped prepare them to be successful their first semester of college,” Robinson said.
Students must have a recommendation from the school’s principal to be able to participate in the program and they are able to choose from different pathways including: associate in arts, associate in science, engineering, criminal justice, and cosmetology.
Students pay only $20 per course which includes parking fees, student activity fees, and their books. Students will never pay over $40 even if they take more than two classes.
“That is unique for Wilkes Community College,” Robinson said. “We’re the only of 1 of 58 community colleges that offer that program for our high school students.”
According to Robinson, 121 ACHS students completed at least one college course and 118 took more than one course.
Thirty-four students completed one college semester and seven students completed two college semesters.
Altogether, ACHS students completed a total of 1,016 hours of credit with an average GPA of 3.43.
“I think that validates Career and College Promise because these students are college ready,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that students of the program make up eight percent of the student head count at WCC’s Ashe campus.
According to Robinson, students collectively saved a total of $119,223 compared to if they enrolled at WCC as a college student with $72,644 being spent in tuition, $3,000 in fees, and $44,000 in books.
“That is money directly poured back into our community, saved by parents in our community through this partnership,” Robinson said. “I think that’s a real important point to make to our community as we look at how to expand this program.”
Robinson also said if students enrolled as college students at UNC-Wilmington, they would have collectively spent $106,375 in tuition, $63,644 in fees, $91,000 in books, and $832,000 in room and board.
Funds for the program come partially from MerleFest which is a fundraiser for WCC.
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.