In the middle of a school year unlike any other, more New Jersey County vocational students than ever have accomplished a unique feat: finish high school with two degrees instead of one.
A total of 193 students from 11 vocational-technical high schools across the state will leave the school this year with a high school diploma and an associate degree from their local college.
This is the largest group of students to achieve such an achievement since county vocational technical schools began offering dual credit options that allow students to take college-level courses as part of vocational and technical education programs at their high schools. , according to Judy Savage, the executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools.
Savage described high school graduation and an associate’s degree as an “excellent in all respects” feat, especially in the middle of the year. coronavirus pandemic.
“The opportunity to actually build a transcript with real credits that are portable is tremendous, and of course from an affordability standpoint … the core amount of credits that students are earning in a dual credit program is largely covered by their schools,” said Savage. “It brings them closer to achieving their goals, whether it’s a four-year degree or entering the job market.”
Savage added that dual credit options will only continue to grow and expand statewide.
“It’s such an important opportunity to give students early exposure to college and give them the opportunity to see in a somewhat supported environment that they are absolutely college material and that they can do that higher level of work,” he said. Savage.
All 21 of New Jersey’s vocational technical schools allow students to receive credit for college-level work while still in high school or in a technical education program. While some of these programs are based on credits offered with additional courses completed on student time, others are specifically designed to allow students to complete their associate degree while in high school.
Of the 193 students who graduated from high school while receiving an associate degree, eight graduated from the Atlantic County Vocational & Technical School District; 17 from Bergen County Technical School; 58 from the Cumberland County Council on Vocational Education; 23 from Essex County Schools of Technology; 24 from Gloucester County Vocational Technical School District; five from Mercer County Technical Schools; two from the Morris County School of Technology; 23 from Ocean County Vocational Technical School District; seven from Salem County Vocational Technical School; 25 from Somerset County Vocational and Technical School District; and one from the Sussex County Technical School.
The 23 Essex County Schools of Technology students are the first group of vocational technical students in the county to receive an associate degree and high school diploma, according to Savage.
Doussou Touré, one of those students, said it was a “great honor” to receive her associate’s degree.
“It was definitely something that excited me and that will help me a lot when I go to college to put myself ahead in terms of general education,” said Toure. “And I know students who will probably skip an entire semester because of it, so it’s definitely useful.”
Toure will attend Emory University in Atlanta in the fall to study medicine in hopes of becoming a general practitioner, an endeavor she feels better equipped to tackle because of her academic achievements over the past four years.
“We had a lot of projects and articles that we needed to do, but the research we did behind the projects and articles would have been more extensive than a high school course, so it gave us a better idea of the world we live in.” Toure said. “And I think understanding what’s going on around me will help me become a better person in healthcare.”
Another student coming out of high school with more than a degree is Ryanne Fisher, who attends the STEM Academy of Mercer County Technical Schools. She earned her high school diploma and associate’s degree by enrolling in college-level courses, including photography and American Sign Language classes.
She described her achievement as “a big step” in her education that her school encouraged her to take.
“The way college classes are organized really works for my brain,” Fisher said. “I really like the looseness and responsibility of doing the work and the open conversations the most…so for me, a lot (getting the degree) was how fun it was to learn.”
Next, Fisher will attend the University of Kansas at Lawrence, where she is studying business in leadership and management – what she could achieve in two years thanks to her efforts during high school.
“I was able to do things like business administration at the community college and speak in public where I wouldn’t have had that opportunity in high school,” Fisher said. “And I go a step further by having a lot of classes done before I even start.”
Aaron R. Fichtner, president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, described getting a high school diploma and an associate’s degree as “extraordinary.”
“Our colleges are committed to enhancing these dual enrollment programs, which provide affordable pathways to post-secondary education while accelerating students’ preparation for the workforce,” he said in a press release shared with NJ Advance Media.
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