NEW PALESTINE — Imagine if your child graduated high school with a college diploma paid for and in hand.

A select number — 61 — of students from the New Palestine High School class of 2020 will be the first county students to take part in Southern Hancock’s early college program through Vincennes University.

The program is designed to help students graduate from high school with an associate’s degree in business management, or at least with a handful of college credits, for a cost of $25 per credit hour.

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The program is set to start next year with New Palestine High School’s incoming freshman class.

As part of the program, a cohort of students will take placement tests and receive tutoring to help ensure their success throughout high school, administrators said.

Of the 84 students who applied for the program, administrators selected 61 students to participate. Eighteen of those students could be the first members of their family to graduate from college.

Thirty seven participating students signed up for the 60-hour associate’s degree path. Twenty-four selected the 30-hour college class option. All of the students should graduate with an academic honors diploma, said administrator Adam Barton.

Barton said the 60-hour path, through which students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, is rigorous; most students will have time to take only two or three elective classes throughout their entire high school career.

“It’s gonna be tough to do,” Barton said.

Educators expect some students participating in the program to fall short of their goal, but they say a majority of those students should graduate college with 20 to 40 college credit hours.

“Anything we give our kids is a step ahead of where they would have been,” New Palestine High School Principal Keith Fessler said.

The Early College program does not eliminate the district’s advanced placement classes. Dual credit and advanced placement classes already offer students the change to gain college credit, but those programs don’t focus on one direction, Barton said.

Here’s a look at four of the 61 Doe Creek Middle School eighth-grade students selected to participate in the early college program:

Haley Weinrich

Soccer is a game Haley Weinrich, 13, loves to play. She often finds herself on two teams at the same time: One at school and the other a travel squad, just so she can improve. Despite the demands, Haley plans to earn an associate’s degree from college by the time she graduates high school in 2020.

“It was a no brainer,” Haley said. “It’s just such a great opportunity in front of me.”

While she knows her high school path will mostly be mapped out for her, she said if she takes it slow, one day at a time, she’ll be able to get through the program.

Her mother, Jami Weinrich, said Haley will be the first in their immediate family to earn a college degree. Weinrich said while she and Haley’s father both built successful careers without college degrees, those days are largely gone.

Brayton Riley

There has never been a doubt in 14-year-old Brayton Riley’s mind that he would go to college. His parents and several of his siblings already have degrees. Brayton wants to be the first in his family to earn a master’s degree. Earning an associate’s degree while in high school will allow him to reach his goal of getting the master’s degree sooner, he said.

“I just decided ‘Why not go for the associate’s degree now?’” he said. “If I’m going to get 30 hours or 40, I might as well go for it.”

Brayton, a computer buff, wants to be the next Bill Gates, his mother Lisa Corwin said. She doesn’t doubt he’ll be successful.

“He’s just so focused,” she said.

Kaylynn Crawmer

When she’s not in school, Kaylynn Crawmer, 14, is either practicing piano, attending Bible study or thinking about the fish in the sea.

Kaylynn wants to be a marine biologist. She plans to use the early college program to gain as many college credits as she can to get a head start on college.

“I’m looking forward to the program and what it offers but dreading a little bit the stress that will probably come with it,” she wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.

Kaylynn said taking part in the program will help her transition into college before she actually heads to a college campus. She opted for the 30-hour program to give herself the opportunity to still enjoy the high school experience, her mother said in an email to the Daily Reporter.

Ashton Whalen

Ever since he was a young child, Ashton Whalen, 14, has wanted to be a restaurant owner and chef. He plans to attend either Michigan State University or Cornell University to earn a degree in his craft. In order to get a head start, he plans to earn a business associate’s degree by the time he graduates from high school.

While he knows the next four years will be challenging, he plans to take it one class at a time in order to take the first step in achieving his dreams.

“Coaches have always told me a good quote from a movie, ‘One step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time,’” Ashton said. “I’ll take it one class at a time.”

Ashton’s father, Brandon Whalen, said his son has always been a straight-A student and expects he’ll do well in the program.

By the numbers

New Palestine High School’s early college program is set to start next school year.

The demographics of the first cohort, expected to graduate in 2020, are:

– 61 Students

– 18 first-generation college students

– 9 students receive free or reduced-priced lunch

– 5 students meet both of the above criteria

– 32 are female

– 29 are male

Students participating in the program should receive:  

– An Academic Honors Diploma

– Support

– Tutoring

– Placement tests

– Two pathway options: one with 60 credit hours, the other with 30

For more information on the Early College program visit: transferin.net/ctl.aspx

Source: New Palestine High School

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.