University by Morning and High School by Afternoon: Area Ninth Graders Earn College Credits in Scholars Academy

Scholars 2Imagine being 14-years old with college credits already under your belt! For a select group of Spartanburg County ninth graders, this scenario is a reality, thanks to a $2.6 million U.S. Department of Education funded grant program called the Scholars Academy.

The University of South Carolina Upstate, in coordination with educators in seven Spartanburg County school districts, implemented this competitive program which allows academically advanced ninth graders to take courses on the college campus during their high school years, starting in the 2007-2008 school year. By the time they graduate from high school, they will have 45 – 60 college credit hours to their name, giving them a jump on their college careers and saving their parents thousands in college tuition.

Twenty-three students from various high schools spent half their day on the USC Upstate campus during the 2007-08 academic year. They arrived by bus from their home high schools at 8:30 a.m., attended core classes together until noon, had lunch in the Campus Life Center Cafeteria, and returned by bus to their respective high schools to complete their day and attend extracurricular events.

Core classes include English, American history, math, government, physical science and wellness/fitness. First year math and advanced English are taught by certified high school teachers and the rest of their classes are taught by University professors. As the students advance to their sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, they will be blended gradually into classes with college students.

“They are official college students,” says Melissa Deloach, director of the program. “They have a college transcript after one semester and they are able to do all on campus that normal students do.” They are provided USC Upstate student e-mail accounts, and they have access to Blackboard, the electronic forum for course information, assignments and student-professor communication.

Scholars 3But Deloach, who has been a teacher for 19 years and an assistant principal at the Dorman Freshman Campus, knows that even though they are on a college campus, the Scholars Academy students are still “kids.” Like a mother hen, she supervises the students while they are on campus and is careful to ensure they stay together and have the necessary adult supervision at all times.

“We want to keep the kids together for security and maturity reasons for the first two years,” she says, adding that by their junior and senior years “they’ll have a lot more freedom to take what they want.”

Even though the students are considered academically advanced, they are still new to college study habits. Professor Paul Grady, who taught American history over the fall semester, says that many of his students were surprised to receive C’s and lower on tests at the start of the semester. “But as the semester progressed and as they realized they had to put more effort into studying for college level classes than they were used to, the students quickly shifted into gear, and finished the semester quite well.”

Entrance to the Academy is competitive, as the students must complete an interview process, which includes their parents and professors. A ratings system is also used, which includes the students’ grades to date. There is no charge for students to participate in Scholars Academy. For further information about the program, contact Melissa Deloach by calling (864)503-5506 or e-mail her at mdeloach@ uscupstate.edu or visit the Scholars Academy Web site www.uscupstate.edu/academics/education/scholars_academy.

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