JEFFERSON-When school officials asked for the first generation college students to stand up to be recognized during last month’s Ashe County High School graduation ceremony, Joallen Lowder was flabbergasted.
Lowder, Director of Community Relations for the schools, said she was amazed to see the number of students who would be the first in their families to attend college. The rising number of kids taking that plunge and rising above whatever circumstances they came from was inspiring to Lowder.
It was also a reminder of what students could achieve if given the proper tools and guidance.
She drove home this point during a recent meeting of the Ashe County Board of Education. Lowder came before the board to inform her of the work being done to launch a new school that caters to a distinct class of students.
Organizers of a recently proposed dual enrollment program through Ashe County High school and Wilkes Community College received the early go ahead from the board of education Wednesday night to begin seeking funding.
Known as the Cooperative Innovative High School Program, the proposed school will be facilitated at the Ashe Campus of WCC and will target rising high school freshmen who are at risk for dropping out or do not fit into the traditional high school format.
The program will not necessarily focus on those students with disciplinary problems, she said.
It will, however, allow these students to earn a high school diploma along with advanced college credits or skills needed to jump start their careers in the work force.
It is similar to the Career and College Promise except it is more intensive in that its a school within itself and targets a different type of student.
The school will be separate from the high school, but will include a staff of at least three teachers and one principal.
For the sake of inclusion and opportunity, the students will be allowed to participate in all high school extracurriculars.
Board member Lee Beckworth indicated some early reservations about the program, but ultimately voted in favor of the application process.
Beckworth asked if WCC students would interact with the high school students. Chris Robinson, director of the Ashe Campus, said, ‘Yes,’ but added that to date, WCC has not had any major problems with such interactions.
The board also had concerns about whether or not students could go back to the traditional high school if they did not like the dual enrollment program.
Board members also stressed the importance of students not being pressured to join the school and board member Terry Williams said it is important for the parents to be included in this process from the very beginning.
Following the board’s approval, the program’s organizers will seek a similar blessing from a joint committee of representatives from the Department of Public Instruction and WCC before it is passed along to the state board and finally the N.C. General Assembly. They also hope to have the grant for the program completed this year, said Lowder.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.