College is a huge (and expensive) step for kids to take. The Early College Program of Macomb County aims to make that step a bit easier by providing high school students the opportunity to earn college experience and credits as they work their way through high school — free of charge.
The program, which began in 2010, is a joint venture between the MISD and Macomb Community College, Susan Meyer, the special project coordinator for the MISD and the dean of the Early College program, explains. It is open to every student — regardless of ability — at all 21 of the school districts in Macomb County, along with public charter schools that offer high school classes.
“It’s a three-year program that runs 11th, 12th and 13th grades,” Meyer says. “Our students take classes at both their home high school and college in 11-12, and then college-only in the 13th year.” In 11th grade, students enrolled in the Early College program take three classes at their high school and three classes at the college, one of which is Seminar, which primarily focuses on college readiness and is taught by Early College counselors, who have both a teaching degree and a counseling degree. In 12th grade, they take two in high school and two classes on campus, of which one is Seminar, to work on communication and leadership skills and in 13th grade, they take four to five classes at the college, including Seminar, which focuses on college and career readiness. In addition, as well as the seminar class, students are expected to job shadow or take internships all three years, supported by over 400 community business partners. “We’re the only program in the state that requires that seminar period (and) we’re the only program in the state that requires a job shadow or internship program every year,” Meyer adds. “This helps them figure out what they want to do or what they don’t want to do — many times through this internship, they find their true passion.”
When they graduate at the end of their 13th year, they do so with both a high school diploma and an associate degree in the area of their choosing.
Best of all, the program covers all expenses, including computers, tuition, books and lab fees, with the exception of transportation.
How to apply
In the late fall of a student’s sophomore year, they will be sent home a packet that outlines the program and announces when that year’s information nights are planned. The application process starts in early January through early February each year. After applying, they must take a placement test and score at a 1000 course level or better in reading, writing and mathematics to become eligible. The names of the students who are eligible are sent on to their school’s superintendent. From there, in April, the student, parents and a counselor with the Early College program will meet and create a schedule that works around the student’s high school schedule and their extracurricular activities.
The student will begin their college classes the third week in August. The start of their high school classes depend on their local school district’s calendar.
“The program has been a wonderful opportunity to these students. Former students will say that it’s one of the best decisions that they have made in their lives,” Meyer says. “Once they go to a four-year university, they won’t waste their parent’s money. They’ve been there and done that. They know all about college, how to act, how to prepare and the rigor — and they know exactly what they want to do.”
Early College Exploration Week
The Early College program of Macomb County requires all students take internships or job shadow — but the COVID-19 pandemic made this difficult for students, and so Early College Career Exploration Week was born.
“COVID has made it hard to do the job shadow and internship experiences, but it’s so valuable for students to go into the thick of that career and learn that this is what they want to do,” says Sarah Strohbeck, the career readiness coordinator with the Macomb ISD. “In trying to create an alternative way, I started connecting with professionals and asked them to do a virtual career chat. It went well, so I expanded it for the entire week.”
The event, which runs March 8-12, 2021, is open to all students in the Early College program and explores a different career pathway, such as engineering, health sciences, business and liberal arts, each day.
Instead of meeting and interviewing a professional in their chosen field, students can attend each 50-minute session to see a presentation by professionals from around the world and ask their questions on the digital platform. “We want to make sure that when students get out of the Early College program and enter into the university that they enter into the appropriate college major. We want them to be confident in their decision,” Strohbeck adds. “This event gives them a way to be exposed to 20 different career pathways.” You can learn more about Early College Week and Macomb County’s Early College program online. For more information about living in Macomb County, visit the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development at Make Macomb Your Home.