An innovative high school program is preparing high school students to graduate with an associate’s degree as well as a diploma.
In Montgomery County Maryland, about 45 ninth-graders have begun the new program that will allow them to graduate with both diplomas. At Northwest High School in Germantown and Northwood High School in Silver Spring, the students will earn associates degrees through honors, advanced placement, and college classes.
The program includes a partnership between Montgomery College Montgomery County Public Schools and exists in other districts around the country.
Amy Crowley, associate director of academic initiatives at Montgomery College, said county high school students have had the chance in the past to take Montgomery College courses but this program marks the first time they can knock out two years of college and earn an associate’s degree.
Both schools picked a STEM – science, technology, engineering, math – degree for their students to pursue. Crowley said the program’s STEM focuses to prepare students for fields where high demands for jobs are expected.
At Northwest High, assistant school administrator Matthew Paushter said the 29 freshman participating in the school’s program are working toward an associate’s degree in general engineering in either four or five years.
Middle College offered “a great opportunity to kickstart an engineering program at Northwest,” he said.
While the program is open to all students, he said, the school is encouraging students who would be their families’ first students and who are from a student group that is underrepresented in college — typically Hispanic and African-American students.
Christopher Hall, a 13-year-old ninth-grader at Northwest, said the program got his attention when he heard about it in June. He said he’s eager to learn what he sees his dad put into practice when he does computer engineering work.
“I’m actually ready for it,” Christopher said of the program. “I know it’s going to be challenging.”