Early College High, a Charleston county magnet school is giving students a head start to obtain a college degree on a college campus.  We’re in downtown Charleston for our Cool School of the week.
Early College High, a Charleston County School District magnet school is located on the campus of Trident Technical College Palmer campus.  Vanessa Denney serves as the school’s principal.  She says, “Our overall goal, our why is to provide opportunity for students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go to a four year university.  We want to provide them with that access.  We’re designed to give students the opportunity to earn their Associate’s degree simultaneously with their high school diploma. They come to the Palmer campus everyday. They’re at school here from the start of the school day to the end of the school day. Many of our students are working on dual credit classes, and by the time they graduate, and leave us, they will have their Associate’s degree.  That’s an amazing opportunity, and it is the only one like it in Charleston county.”

The school is in its second year, and right now has 187 students in ninth and tenth grades. ECH will continue to grow every year to have students in ninth through twelfth grades.  Denney says, “Our kids are successful.  At this point in the school year, 98 percent of our freshmen are already qualified for college level classes in the area of reading and English.”

Tuition and textbooks are free of charge for all students.  Tenth grade student Carlotta Garcia Torres says, “I will be able to already have college classes under my belt, which is really cool for me that I didn’t get to pay for, which is really cool.”

Students have to meet certain requirements to attend.  Denney says, “Students need a minimum map score in their eighth grade year in order to qualify. That just lets us know they have the ability to work at this college level. From there, we look at five areas.  We look at their academics, student’s disciplinary records, student’s attendance records.  We also look at whether or not they’re the first generation in their family to attend college.”

All students get extra support through an elective class called AVID, which teaches students habits and practice needed to be successful in college and life.  Teacher of the year Jennifer Houston says, “We are a tight knit family here.  The students here are very focused and very driven, and very motivated, and a lot of them want to be the first person in their family to go to college and so they take everything very seriously and they love being in college classes with college students on a college campus.”

ECH has strong partnerships with Trident Tech, the City of Charleston, College of Charleston,  and parents.  Students are attracted to the small supportive environment.  Tenth grade student Tyler Baize says, “It’s a great opportunity because it gives you a chance to make it in life and do big things.  I do plan to go to a four year college to do the two plus two program, possibly USC or College of Charleston, probably get my degree in business or criminal justice.”

Coming up Friday on News 2, we’ll present Early College High with our Cool School award.