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Living the Early College Experience

Martinez attends college classes in the morning and high school classes in the afternoon.

Indigo Krol, Rogers Heritage High School

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It’s Monday morning, 7:30 AM. Heritage High School has just opened its doors, but Andrea Martinez is already sitting down for her first class. She is one of the handful of juniors who are a part of the Early College Experience (ECE) at NWACC. While her peers prepared for their third year of high school, she was preparing for her first year of college.

ECE is an opportunity given to students interested in pursuing both their high school diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time. Students begin their day taking a few classes at NWACC, and then they drive to Heritage to finish the rest of their day. After the program is completed, they can either get a good job with their diploma and degree, or they can continue their education at a four-year university. When she first heard about it, Martinez was hesitant to sign up. Now, she’s glad that she took the leap. “It was something new and unexpected. It was both crazy to take it and to not take it.”

Martinez says that college is pretty similar to what people imagine. There’s much more work to be done, and it can be stressful at times. Balancing the classes from each school is something she had to get used to, and there are distinct differences between what’s expected of her from the schools. “In college, there’s no one there to remind you to get work done. Teachers don’t do that. You’re responsible for yourself, and you have to do the work.”

Freshman and sophomore year, she was treated more like a child. At NWACC, her professors and peers treat her like an adult. She is given many more freedoms, but there’s also more responsibility that comes with those privileges. “You’re a kid in high school. Actions get overlooked at times. But in college, deadlines are deadlines. Changing the environment every day is difficult. When you get back to high school, you have to get used to not having as many freedoms. In college, I can just walk out to go to the restroom, but in high school, I can’t get up without teachers asking, “Where are you going?” You have to get used to that.”

Her professors don’t just leave her to sink or swim, though. Martinez feels that she is given every opportunity to succeed in all of her classes. Phone numbers, emails, office hours – all the resources she needs to do well is made available to her. Because of this, she believes that she has more of a head start on the “real world” than students not enrolled in the program have. The program has prepared her for her future, and she likes that she’s surrounded by like-minded people. “I’m with other people who are doing the same thing as me… trying to get a college degree. We go to the cafe together, even.”

Martinez has developed a recent interest in marketing, and she plans to transfer to a four-year university when she graduates. After finishing two more years to earn her Bachelor’s degree, she hopes to start working right away.

Although it might seem like it, her college experience isn’t all stress and Red Bull. “I was in psychology, and we were lecturing. My friend next to me decides to take out her slime. She just starts playing with it during class. My professors sees her and asks what it is. When she said slime, he said, ‘Yeah, okay, class is dismissed.’ He just dismissed us in the middle of the lecture because he said that’s the craziest thing he’d seen in class.”

Read the original story here.

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