MASH students

Meadville seniors Hannah Parks (from left), Camie Reese and Patrick Stevens laugh with each other in the high school guidance councilor’s office recently. The three are enrolled in college classes while working through their senior year in high school.

Meadville Area Senior High School student Patrick Stevens offered his first report of the year to Crawford Central School Board in late September. As the MASH student representative to the board, Stevens covered the latest news on the homecoming court, freshman orientation activities and fall sports as well as some significant feats of a more academic nature.

“MASH has nearly 30 students taking college classes through both Allegheny and Edinboro, which is MASH’s record,” Stevens told the board. “We’ve never had that many kids already gaining college credit, which will obviously make their freshman year in school a lot easier.”

Students at MASH and other high schools in the area have been able to enroll in college classes while still in high school for years, according to guidance counselor Mike Swick, but the number of seniors doing so this year jumped from the typical dozen or so to 29, which means 13 percent of the senior class will have a dual enrollment experience this semester.

“Many of those students are also taking Advanced Placement classes at the high school,” Swick said, referring to classes that allow students to take a year-end exam in hopes of qualifying for college credit. MASH offers 14 such classes. “We’ll have kids graduate this year with maybe a whole semester covered.”

In the past, MASH has offered students a dual-enrollment opportunity through Allegheny College’s Early Access program. This year, students can select from many of Allegheny’s classes and also have the option of taking three classes offered by Edinboro University of Pennsylvania through the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit’s Regional Choice Initiative.

The Edinboro option was piloted by eight MASH juniors last year, Swick said, and many of those students are among the 13 seniors participating this year along with four new juniors. Sixteen seniors are enrolled in Allegheny classes.

“Both programs are excellent,” Swick said, emphasizing that high school participants are held to the same standards and are taught according to the same syllabuses. In fact, he said, they have to apply and be admitted to the classes. “We’re excited this many seniors have taken the challenge to see how they fare in a college class.”

The challenge is likely to become more exciting for some of the students over the next few weeks.

“So far I’m doing pretty well,” said MASH senior Hannah Parks, who is enrolled in an introductory microeconomics class at Allegheny and received a perfect score on her most recent quiz. “So far it’s manageable, but we’re getting into harder coursework now.”

It was easy to notice the difference between English 101, which Stevens and Camie Reese are taking through Edinboro, and the high school English classes they were used to.

“There’s a lot more writing,” said Reese, who was working on an essay about the effects pageants and modeling can have on mental health. “More writing than we’re used to at once.”

The small class sizes and additional one-on-one time with the professor help to compensate, according to Reese, but Stevens said more is expected of the students.

“(The professor) doesn’t hold our hands as much as some high school teachers might,” he said. “You’re more on your own to get things done on time.”

The Edinboro classes are offered at the Crawford County Career & Technical Center and at the high school, Swick said, while students in the Early Access program travel to Allegheny and take classes along with the rest of the college’s students.

Holding the Edinboro classes at the Career & Technical Center makes it convenient for students from Conneaut and PENNCREST school districts to participate as well. Lisa Lichota, guidance counselor at Conneaut Area Senior High, said CASH students have participated in dual enrollment at levels comparable to MASH in the past at Allegheny and through online Edinboro classes. This year, the school has seen a comparable increase, with four students taking Allegheny classes and 22 in Edinboro classes through the Career & Technical Center.

The dual enrollment classes, like college generally, aren’t for every student, Swick said. But for those interested in pursuing college, they can be valuable in a number of ways.

“Students can measure the difficulty level, gain some confidence from doing well and decide for themselves if the coursework fits their career goals and interests,” Swick said.

The classes are valuable in a literal sense as well, according to Swick. Classes at Allegheny are free for high school students and Edinboro classes are just $300 each. When fees are included, the same class taken through Edinboro’s Porreco College in Erie would cost more than four times as much, according to the school’s website.

“We’re trying to give students as many opportunities to get ready for the next step as possible,” Swick said.

Stevens, Reese and Parks were happy to gain the experience.

Taking a class on the Allegheny campus has given Parks a chance to connect with the college community both in the classroom and in the library.

“I like that I’m with the college students and get to see how they handle the college course work,” Parks said.

All three are headed to college next year, and Edinboro is among the schools Reese is applying to. Though Stevens and Parks probably won’t attend Allegheny or Edinboro — Stevens plans to attend St. Bonaventure University while Parks is looking for a school with a strong engineering program — all three think they’ll be better off for having had the dual enrollment experience.

“It’s good to see what lays ahead for us in our future,” Stevens said.

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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