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Surry and Yadkin Early College High Schools Have Record Number of Super Seniors

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The Surry Early College High School of Design, located on the Dobson Campus of Surry Community College, and the Yadkin Early College High School, located at Surry Community College’s Yadkin Center, both have a record number of super seniors for the current school year.

Super seniors at the early colleges are fifth year high school students who are dually enrolled at Surry Community College. They have enough credits to graduate high school after four years, but through their high schools, they can acquire additional college credits and oftentimes earn associate degrees and certificates in their fourth and fifth years of high school. There is no cost to the student for these classes. Even though students may earn a high school diploma at the end of their fourth year, fifth-year students get even more opportunities for college classes and programs for free.

Surry Early College High School of Design is part of the Surry County Schools system and is led by Principal Dr. Matthew White. Yadkin Early College High School is part of the Yadkin County Schools system and is led by Principal Chris Lyon.

Even though both high schools are affiliated with Surry Community College, there are some differences between them. The Surry Early College High School of Design (SECHSD) is set up as a four-year model, with a fifth-year option, while the Yadkin Early College High School (YECHS) is set up as a five-year program with a four-year option.

Lyon says, “Much of this is due to the fact that we teach all levels of the required high school courses, such as Math 1 to Math 4, or English 1 to English 4, through our high school instructors, rather than having students use the college ‘crosswalks,’ which are regular college classes, to complete their high school course requirements for core courses.”

SECHSD students take college classes throughout their high school experience. Lyon continues, “I believe that our model was set up this way in part due to the fact that we are on a satellite campus and don't always have as many college courses offered here as are offered on the main campus in Dobson. We also believe that our students excel in having that established relationship with their high school instructors over multiple courses. Early colleges across the state are set up differently in this regard, just as we are.”

White is quick to point out that early college high school students are not required to stay for a fifth year at SECHSD.

“There is a misconception that traditional high school students have the same opportunities as early college students, but they don't have to stay five years. There are multiple inaccuracies in that belief. First, our students do not have to stay for five years. It is an option available to them. Secondly, while there are many opportunities available to traditional high school students, such as the Career & College Promise (CCP) Program, it is completely different for those students. Our students begin taking college classes as freshmen. Most traditional high school students cannot take college classes until they are a junior. A handful of students qualify to take college classes as a sophomore at traditional high schools, but those are uncommon. I feel it is important that everyone understands that CCP is very different from Early College.”

White reports that the SECHSD has 38 super seniors this school year, which is more than 50 percent of the average grade-level class size. Lyon says that YECHS has 50 super seniors. Both principals say these are record numbers, although the reason for the record is difficult to pinpoint. White speculates that it could be linked to the opportunities with the Surry-Yadkin Works program, which is a paid apprenticeship program for students, or even possibly linked to better communication on the part of the school to make students aware of the benefits students have if they stay with their high school for the super senior year.

Lyon says that advantages of being a super senior are more than just financial as advantages come though the college experience. He says, “Super seniors are basically finishing their second year of college while traditional students finish their first year of college. This means that they possibly know more about what they want to do. Because of their experience, they have the maturity to know if they want to continue to a higher-level institution or go into the workforce. I understand these programs aren’t for everyone. At Yadkin Early College, we load more core classes for students. All our high school courses are offered at the honors level, with college classes available after that.”

Chloe Faulkner is a super senior with the Yadkin Early College. In addition to her classes, she is currently working as a pre-apprentice with Surry-Yadkin Works in the Marketing Department of Surry Community College where she writes press releases and bi-weekly newsletters for the college, along with helping manage the college’s social media presence.

Faulkner said, “I’m getting great financial benefits from the program because I’m getting two years of college for free, and I also get to experience what college classes are like before I go to university. I especially like the small class sizes because my instructors are more available to me, and it’s easy to talk to them. I recommend the early college high school experience for others.”

Both Lyon and White acknowledge that early college graduates are accepted into prestigious universities across the country. Many choose to attend universities within The University of North Carolina System, and increasingly, others choose to enter the work force in trade fields as their associate degrees and workforce certificates have them well-prepared.

Lyon says he thinks the early college program is something every rising high school student and guardian should consider. “It’s a great option, and everyone needs to know about it. It’s a hidden gem.”

Both the Surry Early College High School of Design and the Yadkin Early College High School have a grade of “A” according to North Carolina School Report Cards. This grade is based on the school’s achievement score, which is calculated using the sum of points earned by the school on all indicators measured for that school and also partly on student performance. School indicators include items such as average class size, number and experience level of teachers, school environment, and certain school resources.

If you’d like to know more about the early college experience, contact Surry Early College High School of Design Principal Dr. Matthew White at whitema@surry.k12.nc.us or Yadkin Early College High School Principal Chris Lyon at chris.lyon@yadkin.k12.nc.us. To learn more about the Surry-Yadkin Works program, contact Crystal Folger-Hawks, Surry-Yadkin Works Program Director, at folger-hawksc@surry.edu or visit www.surryyadkinworks.org.

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