Across the metro, students and families are looking forward to graduation, both for high school and college.
For the first time in its existence, the Early College Academy program, a partnership with St. Louis Community College and Saint Louis Public Schools, will graduate 25 high school seniors. During the Class of 2018 commencement ceremony, the students will join their collegiate peers to walk across the stage on Friday, May 11 at 7 p.m. at Chaifetz Arena, located on the campus of Saint Louis University.
ECA is a dual-enrollment program at STLCC-Forest Park. Eligible students who attend Saint Louis Public Schools are enrolled full-time in classes at Forest Park for their junior and senior years of high school, with the intent to graduate with both a high school diploma and a general transfer associate degree from STLCC. Tuition, fees and books are covered as part of the program.
Early College Academy students must maintain a C or better GPA in all classes. SLPS Early College Academy program advisor, Rick Cusumano, provides support to the students. He has an integral role to assist students from diverse backgrounds and high schools to effectively transition to college by managing expectations, and preparing them to transfer and ultimately graduate with a bachelor’s degree or with credentials from a technical college in their majors of interest.
“Two years ago, the first cohort of SLPS ECA students and I started this journey together, not really knowing how it would turn out. It’s hard to believe how far we have come. With their hard work and dedication, they have set the bar very high for the students who will follow in their footsteps. I could not be more proud of them, and I will remember them always as the trailblazers for this amazing program,” said Cusumano.
Early College Academy students represent 10 of 13 high schools within SLPS, showcasing a diversity of nationalities, cultures and backgrounds. The program is evenly represented by gender.
All of the students have gone above and beyond, producing many breakout stars like Destiny King. Currently enrolled in McKinley Classical Leadership Academy, King plans to attend Xavier University in Louisiana. She says the program helped her transition into the college experience.
“ECA helped challenge me with my academics in a way I would not have been at McKinley,” King said.
The program guided students to earn scholarships to further their education.
Acceptances at four-year institutions have included a full scholarship to Princeton for Gateway STEM High School student, Mouhamed Ndiaye.
Kenroyal Kogbara plans to attend Denison University in the fall, and says that ECA allowed him to obtain 64 college credits in total.
“It also helped me in finding scholarships, with taking the ACT and completing early college applications,” said Kogbara.
Linh Pho plans to transfer to Maryville University. When asked what she would miss most about the ECA program, she responded, “I will miss my peers.”
Julie Fickas, dean, STEM and business and interim provost at STLCC-Forest Park, detailed an important fact for the ECA soon-to-be-graduates.
“Twenty-two of the 25 students are transferring to a four-year institution. One student will continue at a two-year institution, and the other two students will join the military or perform a religious mission, resulting in an 83 percent graduation rate for this first cohort of students.”
With 35 juniors moving up to seniors in 2018-19, Early College Academy will continue to grow welcoming 25 juniors in fall 2018.
St. Louis Community College has a dual-enrollment program for high school students at Wildwood, Florissant Valley and Meramec.