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Column: Concurrent enrollment program helps high school students get started early

Program allows high school students to take college courses in their high school, taught by their high school teachers.

022421.O.DG.MNWESTCOLUMN
Theresa Ireland

WORTHINGTON — No matter what types of careers a student is considering, it’s important to get some exposure to those careers while in high school (or before!). If a career isn’t what a student was expecting it to be, the sooner they find this out, the better. Conversely, if a student finds their chosen path is a good fit, engaging in meaningful experiences can help grow their knowledge and better prepare them for entering that field.

There are many ways students can gain career exposure and meaningful experience, including job shadowing, internships and coursework. As K-12 Collaboration Coordinator at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, I work with several programs to help high school students earn college credit and get started on their future career paths. One of these is the REACH Concurrent Enrollment program.

The REACH Concurrent Enrollment program allows high school students to take college courses in their high school, taught by their high school teachers. This is a fantastic option for students who want to try college coursework, but also want to stay in their high school building. Some students like the extra support they can get from their guidance counselor and teachers they already know. Some students like the structure that their regular high school environment provides. Some students do not want to miss out on activities and experiences at their school.

There are many reasons a student might choose to take concurrent enrollment courses, and that's why we currently offer nine concurrent enrollment courses at Worthington High School in a variety of subject areas. Some of these are general education courses, such as Composition and U.S. History. These courses apply to a wide variety of post-secondary programs at the both the two-year and four-year level. Several courses are focused in the health care area, such as Anatomy and Medical Terminology. These are engaging introductory courses for students who are considering medical professions, or wondering if the medical field is right for them.

Students can also earn college credit while getting certified in CPR and First Aid through Minnesota West at Worthington High School. This certification is beneficial in a wide variety of occupations, and can help set students apart when entering the workforce. Two courses are currently offered as a part of the Teacher Preparation Partnership, which is a unique collaboration between District 518, Minnesota West and Southwest Minnesota State University; it allows students to complete a bachelor’s degree in education without leaving Worthington. Taking these courses — Introduction to Education and Technology, Classroom Applications and Portfolio Development — can help students determine if a career in education might be right for them.

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REACH concurrent enrollment courses are free to students, so they allow students to try out college level coursework without the financial risk. District 518 is also partnering with Minnesota West to offer students a free college prep course at the high school, taught by Minnesota West faculty. This course has been immensely popular, and has given many students the confidence and skills to complete additional college courses. The eligibility requirements for this course are also broader than those for other REACH courses, which ensures that students who are motivated to try college courses can have that opportunity, even when their academic abilities have not be well represented in their academic record.

Minnesota West is dedicated to ensuring that all students have access to pursuing education that will lead to positive career opportunities. REACH concurrent enrollment courses are just one of the ways that Minnesota West helps students learn with purpose.

Theresa Ireland is K-12 collaboration coordinator at Minnesota West.

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