Friday, March 13, 2020

Menomonie Eighth Graders to Start College Next Year

Students will be able to earn an associate degree when they finish high school

Article Photo - Menomonie Eighth Graders to Start College Next Year

Menomonie eighth graders sign agreements to take part in the Business Management Associate Degree Academy as high school freshmen next year at a signing day ceremony March 11. By completing the program over four years, the students can earn an associate degree when they graduate from high school.

Dean, an eighth grader at Menomonie Middle School, will begin her first day of college when the next school year starts. Dean is one of 27 Menomonie students to enroll in the inaugural class of the Menomonie School District Business Management Associate Degree Academy through Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Students who complete the four-year program will graduate from high school with both a high school diploma and an associate degree from CVTC. It represents the third such academy in which CVTC partners with area school districts. The Eau Claire School District is in the first year of its academy, and an academy at River Falls High School is in its third year.

CVTC and the Menomonie School District kicked of the academy with an official “signing day” in which the students enrolled in the program signed agreements to take part and received a certificate and a CVTC t-shirt. Parents attended as well. The actual program starts with a session this summer.

The academy fits right into Dean’s plans. “I know what I want to go into, being a financial advisor, and it has to do with business,” Dean said. “I thought this would be a cool opportunity to get a head start on a college program. After this program, I want to go to school again and get my bachelor’s degree.”

Dean can be halfway there when she graduates from high school. The program uses a combination of existing CVTC college credit classes offered in Menomonie and some new classes needed to complete the 61-credit associate degree. In addition to classes as part of their regular high school class schedule, the students will also take some online and summer classes.

“We have a comprehensive strategic plan that aligns very closely with our number one pillar, which is to produce college career and life ready graduates,” said Brian Seguin, assistant superintendent of Menomonie schools. “Not only will these students have experience in the classroom, they will develop a skill set that’s going to be transferrable to the next stage in their life, whether it’s a further education or going directly into the workforce.”

“We know students sometimes feel like they’re spinning their wheels, because they're ready to go forward and take on new challenges,” said CVTC President Bruce Barker. By working together with the K-12 system, we can accelerate opportunities for students and also create savings on college education for the students and their parents.”

The students do not have to pay the tuition and fees that regular CVTC students working toward the same degree pay, saving the families thousands of dollars. With the transferrable credits, graduates could finish a bachelor’s degree in as little as two additional years of college.

Parents of the students took note of that advantage. “The financial part is a big piece of what I explained to him,” said Mindy Johnson, whose son, Kahne, enrolled in the program. “Whether you end up at a university or you end up continuing with a tech degree, these credits stay with you, and someone else is paying for them. That's pretty cool,” she said.

“College is pretty expensive, and this is going to give me a two-year head start,” said student Ella Hein.

“This is a great opportunity for Ella to earn college credits,” said her father, Bob Hein. “I already have two sons in college and a third on the way.”

But it isn’t a free, effortless degree either. Students have to be prepared for the reality of having college-level classes their freshman year of high school.

“Signing up for this was all Emma’s idea,” said her mother, Tanya Dean. “Emma is always up for a challenge and does better when she’s challenged.”

The students received plenty of encouraging words at the signing event.

“We want you to leave here this morning with the sense that ‘yes, I can do this,’ ” said Kristel Tavare, director of PK-12 initiatives for CVTC. “We have cohorts of students at River Falls and Eau Claire high schools working on this same program. So, yes, you can do it. We’ve seen it done.”

“We'll be there every step of the way to help you along,” Barker said. “I know you are capable and we have great teachers and great support systems.”

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