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Students take the fast track in Rowan County Early College

By Sarah Nagem
Salisbury Post
As 13-year-old Phillip Colvin makes the leap from his middle school years to high school, he’s looking forward to smaller classes and, he hopes, fewer distractions.
Colvin, an eighth-grader at North Rowan Middle School, will be part of the first freshman class at Rowan County Early College.
The school, on the campus of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, will offer students the chance to earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in four years.
“There’s probably better classes here,” Colvin said Tuesday at an Early College information session.
The program, which has an intense academic focus, is ideal for him, said his parents, Michael and Melinda Colvin.
Phillip earned As and Bs throughout elementary and middle school, and he eventually wants to go to college to become a mechanical engineer.
What some people might consider a downside to Early College ó an absence of sports and extracurricular activities ó doesn’t bother him.
Colvin didn’t play sports at North Rowan Middle, and he didn’t get too involved with things like school dances.
His mother, however, is disappointed her son won’t have a prom to attend.
But the curriculum makes up for it, Michael Colvin said.
“He’s going to get so much more prepared for the world here,” he said. “That outweighs the other.”
Other students and parents said so, too.
In August, 71 students will begin Early College classes. These students went through an application process to get accepted.
They will study the typical subjects ó English, algebra, geometry, history, environmental science and biology. They will take humanities and physical education classes through the college.
But the learning process will be more hands-on, said Cindy Misenheimer, principal of the Early College.
The school’s four teachers will take a project-based learning approach, which means students will often do research in groups and make presentations about what they learn.
“If you walk into early college classrooms, they’re not quiet places,” Misenheimer said. “The teacher isn’t usually at the front of the room talking, talking, talking.”
Students often retain information better in project-based learning, she said.
Even before the school is up and running, Misenheimer and her teachers asked students to work together to give input about their new learning environment. Students offered ideas about things like rules, dress codes and reading lists.
Some student suggestions: Treat everyone the same. Violence and drugs aren’t welcome. Be happy. School uniforms aren’t necessary. Flip-flops are acceptable footwear.
And students chose three books to read throughout the school year ó two Shakespeare plays and the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
Julie Stolze, the language arts teacher, told students right away she won’t make them do book reports. Instead, they will talk about what they’ve read.
Thirteen-year-old Jessica Rivers, an eigth-grader at Southeast Middle, is excited to start the next chapter of her life at a new school ó and on a college campus.
That aspect doesn’t bother Rivers’ mother, Michelle Rivers. “She’ll be fine,” she said.
As for a lack of extracurriculars, Jessica Rivers said she would have joined the band at Jesse Carson High School, where she would have attended if she hadn’t chosen the Early College.
But it’s a good tradeoff, she said. Katie Mauzy, also a 13-year-old Southeast Middle student, agreed.
Mauzy admitted she’s troubled about not having a prom. But students could create their own prom, she said.
Misenheimer said she was always upfront with potential students about the absence of traditional high school extras, like sports and dances.
“We don’t try to be everything for everybody,” she said. “If they want that, this is not where they should be.”

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