St. James Parish students get head start on college

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 9, 2000

DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / September 9, 2000

LUTCHER – Hard at work preparing for the rest of their lives, some St. JamesParish seniors are getting a head start on their college careers.

The St. James Parish School System finalized a concurrent enrollmentprogram with River Parishes Community College Friday.

Though they finally signed the agreement Friday, it hasn’t held them up, saidVice Chancellor Bill Martin. College level English classes are currently beingtaught at Lutcher and St. James high schools, and college level math classesare being taught at Lutcher High.

The teachers, full-time faculty members of RPCC, have been instructing thestudents in their high school classrooms.

“We wanted to send our faculty there so they could get the same attentionas our campus students,” said Martin. English teachers Bill Bier at St. JamesHigh, Jennifer Bush at Lutcher High and math teacher Edward Thompson atLutcher High all have a master’s degree and at least 18 additional graduatehours in their subject. Bier has a double major in art and English. Bush was apresidential scholar at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond with a4.0 grade average. Thompson is continuing to work on his doctorate degreeat Southeastern. “This quality of instructors are hard to come by,” saidMartin.

So far they have been bringing back good reports. Martin visited the St.

James High class last week. “The students are very polite and good to workwith,” said Martin.

Students in the classes are more willing to talk than normal, said Bush. Sheattributes the openness to the fact that the students have been togetherfor so long. “It makes it easier for them in class,” said Bush.

The students took an RPCC placement exam earlier in the year. In English, 54percent of the students tested placed into the college level course. Mostothers, 43 percent, tested exactly where they could be at an high schoolEnglish level.

In math 24 percent tested into college algebra, and 7 percent tested evenhigher into college trigonometry.

The result of these courses will be that seniors could walk away from highschool with 12 credits of college classes already finished.

Louisiana State University Assistant Director of Admissions Natalie Rigbycommended the schools for entering into such a joint program.

“It will give students a jump on their college careers and give them theconfidence of succeeding in a college level course before they even leave highschool,” said Rigby.

Though normal admissions offices would not be preferential to the students,the experience would give them an edge when entering college, she added.

One unique feature of this program is the fact that, unlike similar jointprograms, the credits St. James Parish seniors will receive can be used atany school of their choice. Some institutions offer the credits, but only ifthey continue school at their university or college.

“RPCC will give them a transcript to take with them. Our goal is to increasethe rate of high school students going on to college,” said Martin. The St. James Parish School System is the first to join RPCC in theconcurrent enrollment program. Martin hopes others will start the programas they continue.

Currently, students are only taking English and math courses, but RPCC isopen to adding more courses on down the line, said Martin.

“One of our major goals is to prepare students for college,” saidSuperintendent Edward Cancienne. “This is a great partnership with a collegethat understands high schools and their relationship to college. I’m excitedabout it, and I think the parents will love it.”

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