Students taking advantage of chance to earn college credits in high school

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

A number of MFL MarMac High School students are heading off to their post-secondary education destinations with college credit already under their belts, thanks to a partnership between the school district and Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC). Katie Gilbert, from NICC, spoke before the MFL MarMac school board at its Jan. 11 meeting, explaining some of the options open to students. 

One of those options, said Gilbert, is articulated courses, which allow high school students to earn college credit in career courses taken at their high school. The college and high school have signed an agreement allowing students to earn the college credit for achieving identified skills while in high school. 

MFL MarMac currently offers two such courses: introduction to accounting, taught by Becky Holt, and basic drafting, taught by Joe Milewsky. They are both high school teachers.

Students earn credit by achieving a C- average or higher, enrolling in a NICC program within one year of high school graduation and completing 12 semester hours of credit at NICC.

Gilbert said another opportunity is concurrent enrollment, which allows students to take a college-level course, taught at the high school level, by a qualified high school teacher. Through this, the student earns both college and high school credit. Students must meet the same admission standards as others entering post-secondary courses. Although there can be test or supply costs for students, the tuition cost is paid for by NICC and the high school.

MFL MarMac now offers 14 of these courses, with some taught in-house by MFL MarMac teachers, while some are shared with other schools. There are options in several different interest areas, including agriculture, psychology, philosophy, composition and the health fields.

Eighty MFL MarMac students are currently enrolled in 85 sections, Gilbert said, meaning some students are taking more than one course.

“We’re constantly working with staff to see what other connections we can make,” Gilbert said. “If 10 or more students are interested [in a course], we look at making it concurrent enrollment.”

Gilbert said it’s also important for area schools to work together, noting that many are interested in offering the same courses.

“The more you can partner and maximize enrollment, the better it is financially,” she said.

The Northeast Iowa Career Learning Link is another offering open to students, Gilbert continued. Through this program, juniors and seniors can work one-on-one with a career coach on career planning. They take pre-employment courses, learning soft skills and how to create a resume. They also have the opportunity to job shadow.

“In Northeast Iowa, there are a ton of businesses people don’t know about,” she said. “We need to educate them on what’s available to keep them here after they go out and explore what’s out there.”

Half of the MFL MarMac junior class is enrolled in this, explained high school guidance counselor Bernice Fischels, who also presented Monday night with McGregor Center counselor Marnie Carlson. The guidance department plays a strong role in preparing students for life after high school, with Fischels noting that she hopes to get all of the current sophomores involved next year.

Carlson said career planning begins in middle school, with students using online resources to explore career options, attending career fairs and touring colleges.

“It plants the seeds for the future,” she said, “to see what options there might be down the road.”

Scholarship coordinator Leslie Henkes is another resource for students as they prepare for graduation. She presented with Fischels and Carlson, speaking about the Google calendar she created to make students aware of important upcoming dates. Through the calendar, students can find information about things like scholarships, ACT registration and college rep visits. She also organizes the school’s planning room, which includes information about colleges and military opportunities, financial aid and the ACT and SAT tests. 

Other topics discussed at the meeting included:

•Elementary principal Kathy Koether said the elementary recently received $400 from a local church to go toward purchasing winter gear and food. She said the school also recently received over $800 from Box Tops for Education.

•High school principal David Ross said the high school will now offer a poetry course. Lynn Jones will teach the writing portion of the course, while he will focus on analysis and reading and superintendent Dale Crozier will cover ethics. Ross said he believes the collaborative effort will be fun.

“It’s exciting for me because I haven’t been in a classroom in awhile,” he said.

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