Chatham Charter cherishing connection with CCCC
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By Zachary Horner, Chatham News + Record
SILER CITY - High school students taking classes at local community colleges is nothing new or unique, even in North Carolina and the central region of the state.
But Chatham Charter School is working to take that connection to the next level.
According to data released by the school earlier this year, 40 of the 46 members of Chatham Charter's Class of 2018 completed either the College Transfer Pathway, designed to seamlessly introduce students into college life with several credits to their name, or earned Career and Technical Education certifications through Central Carolina Community College's Career & College Promise program.
Additionally, 84 percent of the Class of 2019 is on track to complete one of those paths, with one member projected to finish both.
John Eldridge, Chatham Charter's head of school, said the school's emphasis on dual enrollment allows them to compete with students in other counties and helps set them up for the rigors of college education.
"Whether or not you're going to go to a four-year school or a two-year school, the skills students are picking up in this area are time management, how to represent yourself -- there's life skills that are involved in this, not just college preparation," Eldridge said. "It's our goal to make sure kids complete the pathways that are out there, but at least getting exposure to what's out there."
According to the report, Chatham Charter students have taken classes in areas ranging from automotive systems technology, medical assisting and sustainable agriculture to criminal justice technology, early childhood education and culinary arts. That variety of options, Eldridge said, is evident of CCCC's quality.
"People have got to understand how outstanding of a resource that is in this area," he said. "We want (our students) to be prepared for going into the workforce, and...we're very fortunate to be where we are with Central Carolina in this area."
Sara Newcomb, the college's director of secondary partnership, said the college works with more than 2,000 students in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties through Career & College Promise, but Chatham Charter is "probably using it in a larger volume than our other schools."
Newcomb cited the school's scheduling format as a key cog in this wheel. High school juniors and seniors are put on a college-like schedule with Monday/Wednesday, Tuesday/Thursday and Friday classes that take place on CCCC's campus in Pittsboro, allowing for students to take both high school and college classes simultaneously and without barriers. "They are so innovative," Newcomb said. "They really think about how to integrate well with us. We're able to work well together."
Eldridge said Chatham Charter has already seen alumni who have taken advantage of this program go on to collegiate and/or career success earlier than their peers due to this jumpstart. His own daughter, currently a student at Davidson College, picked up 39 college credits prior to high school graduation, and while not every credit transferred, Eldridge said the real-life education was invaluable.
"She had all that experience before she even left us, and I'll tell you, I didn't have that experience when I was 17, 18," he said. "I'm so thankful we're in a state that we see the value of that."
There's a likelihood that the number of students taking advantage of this program will jump with the Chatham County Board of Commissioners' approval in December of Chatham Promise. Graduates of any Chatham County high school who have taken at least 12 credit hours of CCCC classes would be eligible to get two free years of tuition at the community college. Eldridge predicted more of his students would seek that pathway with the institution of Chatham Promise.
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