Building a foundation

Published 10:43 am Thursday, September 7, 2017

GASTON – Northampton County’s Early College High School made it through their inaugural school year, and now they’re diving right into the second year.

Just like similar early college high schools all across the state, students here at the Northampton County site have the chance to get a head start on their education beyond the high school level.

The county’s Early College, in partnership with Halifax Community College, provides students the opportunity to earn an associate degree along with their high school diploma. Beginning during their freshman year of high school, students take a variety of general education college courses such as psychology, sociology, college English, and college math, alongside their regular classes.

After graduation, they usually have enough credits to transfer into a four-year college as a junior if they choose to do so.

“By the time they’re 19 or 20, they’re graduating college,” explained Monica Edmonds, principal of Northampton County Early College High School. “It’s a great benefit [for them].”

The school started off with 70 students during its first year, and enrollment has increased to 117 students for the 2017-18 school year, according to Edmonds. This year will also include the school’s first graduating class, after serving students only through eleventh grade last year.

“That is something we’re very excited about,” Edmonds said, adding she was happy to see more students taking advantage of the opportunity to positively affect their futures.

The school campus is located at the Squire Academic Center (formerly Squire Elementary School) in Gaston, and students are transported to the Halifax Community College campus in Weldon to take classes there as well.

Edmonds explained there are several advantages to the Early College program, such as getting a head start on college and gaining better access to a successful career path, but she also mentioned seeing the development of responsibility and time management skills in her students.

“Those are foundational skills,” she said, emphasizing the importance of learning them, especially at a younger age than most.

Edmonds said the students learn to be advocates for themselves as they navigate the college environment. Like actual college students, they must answer to their professors if they have any conflicts or issues. She spoke highly of her students, acknowledging the beauty of seeing them develop maturity in their lives.

“We’re still getting our feet wet,” said Edmonds of the young school, but noted that everything has been going well so far as the second year gets underway.

Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter, Superintendent of Northampton County Schools, echoed the same sentiments about the Early College.

“They’re doing very well,” Smith-Woofter said, adding they were excited about their continuing collaboration with Halifax Community College to provide this educational opportunity to students who want to get ahead.

The superintendent also noted they were able to secure more funding for the school this year to make more improvements.

Classes are already back in session at Northampton County’s Early College for round two, and though the school has only been around for a short amount of time, the impact on student futures will last much longer.