West Orange-Stark’s early college grads earn college credit in high school

Published 12:32 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

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Congratulations recently went out to Marie Celestine, Jalen Francis, Trinton Garrett, Evan Gray, Darian Hardin, Babitha Jerani, Bryson Jordan, Josue Manzo-Torres and Azula Raymo.

These West Orange-Stark High school seniors completed the Early College High School program.

On the evening of May 13, each student earned a Certificate of Completion in General Studies, and an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from Lamar State College-Orange.

These students completed this task before graduating high school.

The 2022 ECHS cohort faced numerous challenges. Added to their workload of employment, extracurricular activities and college coursework were the challenges of virtual learning. The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, sending these students, along with their college peers, home to participate in distance learning.

Newly re-elected school board president Linda Platt Bryant remarked on the board’s commitment to the continued success of the ECHS program despite the pandemic.

“During the pandemic, we continued to offer any programs we extended to students’ pre-pandemic…alongside their peers in college, WOS students worked online,” she said. “We were pleased to not see any programs go away.”

The ability of WOS students to adjust to the change in the delivery of instruction was of no surprise to the board president. She believes the ECHS program allows students to develop flexibility of choices and a classroom mindset.

In recognition of their hard work, the Board of Trustees of the West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District honored them during the Superintendent’s Report shortly after the early May meeting was called to order.

Dr. Rickie Harris, superintendent of schools, presided over the recognition of the seniors. His vision for the program included the ability of students to graduate from high school with a community college degree while still enjoying a high school experience that includes extracurricular activities like band, athletics and choir.

The 2nd cohort looks forward to Fall 2022 when those students continue their studies at their respective universities of choice.

Most students have chosen to enroll at Lamar University in Beaumont, others will study in Houston at Sam Houston State University and Prairie View A&M University. Their majors are accounting, animation, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, nursing, business management, American Sign Language and more.

All nine students were thankful, most were intentional about turning to face the board members present to express their appreciation for offering the opportunity to graduate from college for free before high school graduation.

Each student also expressed gratitude to program director Jennifer Sims, M. Ed. The new director has been at the helm for the past year.

Sims expressed appreciation to the board for granting her the opportunity to work with the students.

“Every student earned (a degree) before their high school diploma; their hard work paid off, and I am proud,” she said.

To participate in the ECHS program, students must declare interest in eighth grade while attending West Orange-Stark Middle School. Every new cohort member attends a summer bridge program on the campus of LSCO, where they are introduced to the program and become acclimated to life as a college student.

Students this year included:

  • Marie Celestine, Lamar University, accounting
  • Jalen Francis, Sam Houston State University, animation
  • Trinton Garrett, Prairie View A&M University, electrical engineering
  • Darian Hardin, Lamar University mechanical engineering
  • Evan Gray, TBD
  • Babitha Jerani, Lamar University, nursing
  • Bryson Jordan, TBD
  • Josue Manzo-Torres, Lamar University, business management
  • Azula Raymo, Lamar University, American Sign Language

— Written by Shari Hardin