First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - Nineteen policymakers from across the nation, including senators from Iowa and Oklahoma, stopped in Robeson County on Friday to get a close look at high school redesign efforts being made here.
The group toured the new Information Technology High School on the campus of Purnell Swett High and met students at the Early College High School at Robeson Community College.
“I think it is fabulous,” Jim Reynolds, an Oklahoma senator, said of the Early College. “The excitement that the kids have is really good and they are willing to sacrifice their time. A lot of times people say we are not challenging young people enough because so many are dropping out of school. But these kids are being challenged and it looks like they are stepping up the challenge.”
The trip was sponsored by the American Youth Policy Forum based in Washington, D.C. It was the fourth trip in a series of 10 to expose state policymakers to innovative education techniques. Members of the entourage are working on high school reform efforts in their own states - Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Rhode Island, Maryland, Colorado and Oklahoma.
Wesley Revels, principal of the Early College, used a slide show presentation to give the group an overview of the five-year program, now is in its second year.
He said there are 142 students in grades ninth through 11th and 64 of them are taking college courses such as anatomy and physiology. The program allows students to take a fifth year of high school. After graduation, students receive a high school diploma and a two-year associates degree or two years of credit at a four-year university.
“This program requires you to mature,” said senior Ky'Londa Glaze, who used to attend Lumberton High School.
The group bombarded Revels and a panel of seven students with questions about funding, transportation, athletics and how comfortable the students are going to school with older college students.
College never crossed Jacqueline Jones' mind when she was enrolled at Purnell Swett High. Jones and other Early College students said they were missing a personal connection with their teachers at a large high school.
“This is one of the best decisions I've ever made,” Jones told the group.
Jones plans to enroll at a four-year college and study to become a teacher.
Charlie Toulmin, a senior policy analyst with the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C., was impressed by the students.
“They are so articulate,” Toulmin said. “They have a really good sense of where they are going and what their future holds and how this program is going to get them to that future.”
The Public Schools of Robeson County was among 14 counties in the state that received start-up money to open an Early College. Plans are in the works to open at second Early College on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.