A group of Orangeburg County School District students will be placed on the fast track to college with the launch of a new initiative with Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.
The two institutions are teaming up to develop Orangeburg Advanced College for grades in nine through 12. It will give some students a chance to earn an associate degree in high school.
“Educating students is about ensuring that a high tide floats all boats. … This is just one step closer to ensuring that we have a high tide for all of our students,” OCSD Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster said.
OCSD and OCtech officials converged on the school district’s administrative office Thursday afternoon to sign a memorandum of understanding.
The program will begin the 2021-2022 school year and is open to current eighth-graders who will be entering ninth grade next year. The advanced college program will begin with up to 25 students and be free to students.
Students will have the chance to earn up to 86 credit hours in the program. In addition to the associate degree, students will also receive their high school diplomas.
The program will also allow students to transfer courses from OCtech to other higher educational institutions.
Foster said program has the potential to fill workforce gaps within the community.
“We don't want kids to go to school just to walk away with their product, and that's their high school diploma. That's great, but we want to also ensure that they have a skill that someone's willing to pay them for so they can be a solution to the gaps in our workforce,” Foster said.
“We know where we have the needs here in Orangeburg specifically. So why not take the resources that we have with the technical college, with the school system, and produce individuals that fill those gaps and continue to grow this community?" the superintendent said.
Students accepted into Orangeburg Advanced College will remain officially enrolled in their “home” high schools, maintaining eligibility for athletics, band and club participation, according to a district press release.
During their ninth- and 10th-grade years, Orangeburg Advanced College students will engage in advanced coursework at their high schools and college-level coursework at OCtech.
Eleventh- and 12th-grade students will be fully immersed in college coursework on OCtech’s campus. In the 11th and 12th grade, students will spend all day at OCtech, according to the district.
When all the programs are built out, a total of 200 students could be enrolled in the program.
The application process begins March 15. Information will be available at each school and on the district's website.
Student and parent interviews will be conducted April 12-30 as part of the application process.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Andress Carter-Sims reported during a Feb. 9 school board meeting that schools will also provide nominations for students.
Students will also have to submit a writing sample as part of the application process.
Students will be selected for the program based on academic performance, behavior, parent/legal guardian engagement, recommendations, personal essays and self-reported interests and activities.
“We just can’t wait to get started,” Carter-Sims said on Thursday.
The school district currently has a dual-enrollment early college program.
Foster has said the early college program will remain in place for students. The difference between early college and advanced college programs is that in early college, students receive dual credit. The advanced college curriculum will lead to the receipt of an associate degree.
“These students will travel in cohorts. So they'll start in the ninth grade with a structured curriculum, with obviously some options to veer off to the sciences or the arts. If we have a 10th grader, they're still not denied dual enrollment opportunities, and we encourage them to take those opportunities as well. This (OAC) program just leads to a clear pathway to one of those associate degrees in arts and/or the sciences,” Foster said.
Because of the intense nature of the advanced college program, students will be monitored and provided remediation and academic support opportunities during the ninth- and 10th-grade years.
The district will also provide transportation for the students from their high school campuses to OCtech.
OCtech President Dr. Walt Tobin said Orangeburg Advanced College can be expanded into other academic program areas, including health care and advanced manufacturing.
“This is going to be a cohort-based approach. So we'll take in 25 students in the arts and sciences and so forth. I see a similar path for students who want to pursue a career in advanced manufacturing. So we would come up with another cohort of 25,” he said.
“We do some of this already. We've got a Project Lead the Way curriculum that is offered in the district that's kind of a pre-engineering-based curriculum that allows students to transition to a four-year college if they choose, but also to enroll in our advanced manufacturing program,” he added.
Tobin continued, “It would follow a similar path for those students, but they would just travel in a cohort. There's just some social benefits for students to travel together ... and they have an advisor that kind of travels along with them and it makes them more successful.
“But ultimately what we want to be able to do is to produce more students who come out of high school with a credential at least or high-wage, high-demand job in advanced manufacturing.”
Tobin said health care and advanced manufacturing are currently the “two biggest sectors” in the region.
“There's a demand for those graduates in this region. We're looking at what the labor market is demanding, and I think those are two areas that we need some level of innovation and creativity," he said.
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