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Rowan County Early College enrollment opens for 2021-2022 school year

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan-County Early College is an opportunity for a handful of Rowan County students to accelerate their studies and get ready to continue their education.

The program, a collaboration between Rowan-Salisbury Schools and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, only takes 65 students per year in its new freshmen class to attend at its facility attached to RCCC’s Salisbury campus. Of those students, 80% are first generation college hopefuls. Focusing on those students has been the early college’s goal since the beginning.

RCEC is now accepting applications for next school year,. Applications will close on Dec. 17.

Maria Delgado was one of those first-generation students. She graduated from the early college in 2016 with an associate’s degree from RCCC, and she finished a biology degree after only two years at Catawba College. Now she is back at the early college working as a receptionist, and pursuing a master’s degree.

RCEC Principal Patrick Hosey said the high school curriculum is accelerated for students in the program. They will spend their first two years covering what would normally be the core curriculum for high school students, and then begin working on an associates’ degree.

Students get in based on a lottery system, but they are also interviewed to ensure they want to take the early college route. Hosey said the college is a good choice for some students, but not all. He pointed out the accelerated rate of study and the non-traditional environment at the early college as reasons a student may decide they would like to attend another school.

The early college is smaller than all other high schools in the district, and only offers intramural sports. Students who were not already performing well in a traditional middle school could find the accelerated study too challenging.

For students that find the challenge the be the right fit, the program can have a big impact.

“We prepare them so well to go to college, that when they get there, they don’t feel overwhelmed,” Hosey said.

Hosey said the school talks to families about going to college and educates parents about what needs to happen as well.

“I definitely feel that early college was the best path for me as a first-generation college student,” Delgado said, adding teachers were talking about the application process early on and there was plenty of opportunity to apply. She also had one-on-one mentoring to help her apply to schools and for scholarships.

Delgado said she even received a scholarship because she attended the early college.

“The college helped me pay for most of my tuition at Catawba,” Delgado said. “I received a lot of benefits.”

Sakina Riley, who teaches English at RCEC, said the goal is to offer education that is more intentional and helps students become independent.

“If they’ve been in school at traditional high school or at early college, they need to be vulnerable and comfortable enough seeking resources that will help them become self-sufficient,” Riley said.

Riley said what she really appreciates about the early college is it is trying to create a safe space that allows students to be comfortable enough to ask for help when they need it.

Students can speak to their counselors to apply, or visit www.rssed.org/rcec for downloadable applications.

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