Early College Program
Central Community College (CCC) partners with area high schools through the Early College program, which allows high school students to get an early start on their college education. This opportunity allows high school students to earn college/dual credit while still in high school placing them on an early path to post-secondary attainment and success. Jamey Peterson-Jones, early college director stated, “It’s exciting to see high school students graduate with both their high school diploma and some college credits that lead to a degree.” Many also have enough credits to receive a CCC certificate or diploma, which can set the student up for success as they enter post-secondary education and the workforce.
Principal Jason Searle of Sandy Creek High School sees that when their students take that first college class it eases them into signing up for more college classes. Ultimately finding success in that first college class results in a student being more likely to continue taking college coursework. These classes may be general education classes that fulfill requirements towards an associate degree or transfer to a 4-year institution. A student may take a college course out of curiosity and interest as they are trying to figure out what their passion is and what career they want to try and follow. This allows students to enhance personal or high school achievements as well as explore potential career options all while taking classes in their own community. Searle appreciates CCC’s wide array of options for students with different interests, “I don’t know how we would offer everything we do if we didn’t have a good partnership with CCC.”
The early college program offers college-level courses that provide strong foundations for students through career exploration as well as knowledge to gain a head start towards a college degree. McKenzie Ostdiek (2021) from Lawrence-Nelson High School said she received a “great (knowledge) base for so many of the other healthcare classes” she will need in her healthcare career. Through the early college program, she took many prerequisite college courses and will graduate with 28 college credits. McKenzie acknowledges
that her success in the classroom has translated into her earning her CNA certification “all without any cost to my parents or myself”. This accomplishment allows her to begin working as a CNA now, while continuing to learn more about the healthcare field and advancing her postsecondary education.
While the early college program through CCC offers many benefits to area high school students, it is also beneficial to the area high schools who take advantage of the program. Searle has been impressed over the past several years with CCC’s commitment to quality education as it assists with the early college program administration, which includes summer workshops, credentialing assistance, and consistent communication and education to high school staff members. “All the supports have been very valuable to our success in what we’re doing working with students. It has been very important and almost critical in the success of what we have tried to build and offer to our students,” noted Searle.
According to Peterson-Jones, over 80 Nebraska high schools are participating in the CCC early college program with 2,947 high school students enrolled in coursework through the program in 2020-2021. On average most students participating in the early college program will take two college-level courses per year. The success of this program is due to the flexibility of its offerings at high schools in local communities through a combination of online, in class, televised, lecture and lab offerings to ensure that students across CCC’s 25-county service area have access.