Remy Thornton graduated from the University of South Alabama in May with her bachelor’s degree in radiologic science with a focus in radiation therapy. She is one example of the success students have had through the dual enrollment program at Central High School Coosa County with Central Alabama Community College. Photo submitted
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
The dual enrollment program between Central High School Coosa County, CHS, and Central Alabama Community College, CACC, has proven to be rather successful over the years, with recent high school graduates being able to earn college degrees earlier than they would have otherwise as they continue their education and enter the workforce.
Kelsie Garrett, dual enrollment admissions specialist at CACC, said that CHS students have been dual enrolling at CACC since the 2008 fall semester.
Since the fall of 2008, she said 107 CHS students have enrolled in CACC dual enrollment courses. There were 35 students enrolled in the 2021-2022 academic year.
Garrett reported that records indicate 18 of the 107 students were awarded degrees or credentials from CACC after graduating from high school.
CHS Principal Brandi Lee reported that for the 2021-2022 school year, 28% of the twelfth graders were taking dual enrollment classes, as well as 39% of the eleventh graders and 11% of the tenth graders.
While CHS students have been dual enrolling at CACC for quite some time, the program has evolved over the years.
Debi Stover, CHS teacher, explained that initially students were responsible for tuition and transportation to CACC. In more recent years, however, scholarships have been available from CACC for students pursuing an associates degree in one of six career technical pathways: computer science, industrial electronics technology, machine shop, office administration, welding, or medical assisting technology.
There have also been some years when CHS provided bus transportation to CACC for dual enrolling students. Additionally, students can now also take their dual enrollment courses online without having to physically attend CACC.
Stover also explained that this year CHS and CACC piloted a program in which CACC nursing instructor, Mrs. Dean, came to Central to teach nursing courses to CHS students for dual enrollment credit.
Four of those students; Emily Brown, Raamiah Gaddis, Jeiby Garcia, and Brynly Mitchell; are completing their coursework this summer with a grant from SAFE in order to earn their phlebotomy certifications by the end of summer. This will allow those students to earn a skilled wage while continuing their long-term higher education goals.
Additionally, this year more funds were made available to pay the tuition of CHS dual enrolled students through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funding.
Dual enrollment is open to students beginning in the summer after their ninth grade year who have a minimum grade point average of 2.5. Students can either submit their ACT score or take the ACCUPLACER test for placement in core classes such as English and math.
Stover said that although numerous Central students have earned both high school and college credit simultaneously by participating in the program, students who dual enroll early and continuously in high school have the opportunity to earn their high school diploma and associate’s degree from CACC simultaneously upon graduation.
She added that students who have successfully pursued this path in recent years include Sam Wood-Fuller, who is now a practicing pharmacist; Baylee Meadows-McDonald, who is currently attending law school; Remy Thornton, who is now a practicing urology and oncology specialist; A’Mia Johnson, who will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Jacksonville State University in August; and Marlen Gaspar, who is attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she is also working on her bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Currently there are 16 CHS students taking online or on-campus CACC classes for the summer session.
Jamie Thornton, mother of Remy Thornton, shared some information on their personal experience and Remy’s success with the dual enrollment program.
Remy stated dual enrollment in the spring of her sophomore year, taking an online class because she could not drive to campus. Thornton said her daughter found that she was able to handle the responsibilities of the classes and continued to take classes, even taking classes through the summers.
She completed her course work from CACC the spring of 2020 prior to graduating CHS as valedictorian, but because of COVID-19 issues she did not receive her CACC diploma on time. However, she received her diploma with an associate’s in interdisciplinary studies from CACC.
She went on to be accepted into the University of South Alabama’s Honor Program, as well as the Radiologic Science Program, which is highly competitive with the program only taking 40 students each year.
In 2021 she was then accepted into the radiation therapy senior level program with eight other students. She graduated last month with her bachelor’s degree in radiologic science with a focus in radiation therapy.
Miss Thornton is waiting to sit for her American Registry of Radiologic Technologies, or ARRT, registry in August. However, she has been offered a radiation therapist position at the Urology & Oncology Specialists, P.C., in Mobile, contingent on her registry.
She had numerous positive experiences at both Central Elementary and Central High schools and feels that they prepared her and encouraged her to reach for her dreams.
“Although our school isn’t the biggest system in our area/region, I never felt like I was not capable or prepared to accomplish the tasks set before me,” Thornton said. “The teachers and staff at Central were caring, and I could depend on them for assistance, and several have checked in on me after graduation. I feel like in life there are opportunities out there for everyone; it is up to us to reach for them.”
Regarding grants or assistance to help parents save money on dual enrollment classes, CACC Dual Enrollment Admissions Specialist Garrett said that the CTDE scholarship covers tech courses needed for the technology degrees and that students can also get English 101, one science and one math course covered if taken during the same semester as a tech course.
She added that child development offers a short-term certificate, CHD, and that there is currently a STEM scholarship that covers all STEM-related courses. Those would include science, math, physical science, computer science, and other similar courses.
Garrett explained that there is not an application for dual enrollment scholarships and that scholarships are instead awarded to students who are registered for qualifying courses.
“Dual enrollment is a great way to get a jump start on your college career and replace your high school requirements,” Garrett said. “For example, English 101 could replace the requirement of English 11 or English 12. Students wouldn’t have to take the course twice and would earn college credit.”
She added that academic courses are transferable to other institutions. Additionally, she said that dual enrollment is a great way for students to try out different courses and pathways while still in high school, noting that students can take anything CACC offers as long as the high school and parents sign off on it.
Garrett said that most students take two courses per semester, but that it is a personal decision on how many a student can handle. She said that few students have taken between four and six courses, in addition to their high school course load.
“Dual enrollment is a great option for everyone,” Garrett said. “Many students believe they’re not ‘college material,’ but find out they’re the perfect fit once they get on campus or complete courses. For students who are on the fence, we offer a 1-credit hour orientation course that is taught completely online. This course is a great way to introduce students to everything the college offers. Many school systems are working towards requiring all of their students to complete this course. Students who are diligent and get started early can fully complete an associate’s degree before high school graduation.”
Garrett said that the dual enrollment team has Facebook and Instagram pages where they share helpful information, deadlines and other things to help further explain the program. Those who are interested can follow one of those social media pages for more information and updates.
In addition to talking with Mrs. Stover and others at CHS, those who are interested in learning more about the dual enrollment program may contact Garrett at email@example.com for more information.