LC Bulletin: Early College High School opens doors

July 9, 2010. Retrieved online July 12, 2010 from Todd G. Dickson, Las Cruces Bulletin

A couple of buses ran late, a few students showed up at the wrong classroom and technicians were still working the bugs out of some software not atypical glitches for the first day of classes at a new school.

But these 166 students weren’t at a public high school owned by the district. Instead, they were in classrooms at Doña Ana Community College’s New Mexico State University campus.

Welcome to Las Cruces Public Schools’ Early College High School (ECHS).

“You are pioneers, did you know that?” Superintendent Stan Rounds told the freshmen on their first day of class Tuesday, July 6.

According to Rounds, LCPS’ early college high school is the first of its kind in New Mexico, but follows the national model of providing academically focused instruction on a university campus. Students at an early college high school earn college course credits while also meeting requirements to graduate high school. In the case of LCPS, students at ECHS can potentially graduate with not only a high school diploma, but also an associate’s degree through dual-credit courses.

Nationally, the approach has seen great success in keeping kids in school with only a 5-percent dropout rate and nearly all who graduate go on to college studies.

The chance to get a “foot in the door” of a college education is what attracted 14-year-old Luzaide Arrieta to ECHS.

“It seemed like a really good opportunity to go to college,” she said. “It gives me a head start.”

As the oldest of seven children, Arrieta said she wants to set an example for her siblings. More than half of the students are the first in their family destined to go to college, Rounds said.

“Getting a jump start” is how Zachary Eason, 14, also described his decision to attend ECHS. Interested in engineering, Eason said he felt the school will get him in classes that will be the foundation of his future engineering studies.

Because of the rigorous focus, location on a university campus and smaller school size, early college high schools don’t offer the kind of extracurricular activities found in regular high schools, such as band. ECHS here is no exception, it will add students each year until it tops out at a student count of 500 and doesn’t offer activities, including band.

While he does like to be in band, Eason said his passion is really for engineering. In a regular high school, he said classes such as band would make up for taking classes that don’t really interest him.

“Early College High School will allow me to focus on something I really want to do,” he said.

Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article.

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