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Local early colleges celebrate Early College High School Week

SALISBURY — Early-college high schools are designed to meet one of the nation’s biggest challenges in education — propelling students from underserved backgrounds to graduate from high school and earn postsecondary degrees.

Early College High School Week, held each April, is an annual celebration of the achievements and progress made by early-college schools. During the week, early-college high schools and their partners bring together students, teachers, administrators, parents, community leaders, and legislators to highlight earlyecollege schools in their communities.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s early colleges have had notable success rates. Rowan County Early College had a 100 percent high school graduation rate for the past two years. Last year, Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College seniors were awarded more than $4 million in scholarships at four-year colleges and universities across the country.

RCCC opened its third early-college high school last fall at the college’s Cabarrus Business and Technology Center in Concord.

“We had a large number of applicants every year, and we weren’t able to accept all of them. We were turning away about 120 students, so we knew we needed to expand,” said Vance Fishback, the first principal at Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College who is now principal of Cabarrus Tech. “We saw an opportunity to put the school on the Cabarrus Business and Technology Center campus, and with the courses that are offered there, we decided to make it a STEM early college.”

Early college is part of the “Learn and Earn” initiative launched by Gov. Mike Easley in 2004. It provides the opportunity for students in grades nine through 12 to earn both a high school diploma and a two-year degree or two years of transferrable credit in four or five years, tuition free. It is designed to attract students who are often underrepresented in college: minorities, students from low-income families and those whose parents never attended college.

“We have a truly great opportunity here to help more of our current high school students achieve their goals. Getting started on a college education while still in high school is the best way to do that because it is tuition-free,” said Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus.

Far too many young people graduate from high school unprepared to succeed in college and today’s global economy, RCCC officials say. Early colleges embrace acceleration over remediation, providing a rigorous curriculum, student support programs, and a “college for all” culture.

“Early college students set themselves on a strong path toward earning both their high school and college education,” said Spalding. “We are proud of these students and encourage more parents and students to consider ways for their students to take advantage of this program.”

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, visit www.rccc.edu or call 704-216-RCCC (7222).

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