Victoria ISD students earn high school diploma and college degree at the same time
Imagine attending four years of high school and, upon graduation, receiving your diploma and an associate degree at the same time.
For nine Victoria ISD students attending the Liberty Academy Early College Center in Victoria, this scenario has become a reality. When these students wrap up the school year, they will have earned an associate degree from Victoria College and receive a Liberty Academy diploma during their graduation ceremony.
“These students are taking courses that will count toward both their associate degree and high school diploma,” said Babette Lowe, VC Dean of Academic Foundations and Student Success.
Liberty Academy was created five years ago through a grant awarded to Victoria ISD. This year, 26 seniors will be the first class to graduate from Liberty Academy Early College Center, and of those, nine received their Associate of Arts degree from Victoria College.
“The Early College Center at Liberty Academy has been a game-changer for many of the students and families in VISD,” said Sherri Hathaway, VISD Associate Director of Secondary Curriculum, Instruction, and Accountability. “The opportunity to experience college-level material while in high school gives students a head start on success in their post-secondary education and careers. Their hard work, determination, and perseverance have definitely been inspirational to those who have worked with them along the way.”
At the Early College Center, students take three or four college classes during their freshman year and increase the number of college courses they take each year. By their senior year, they take all college classes.
Lowe, who serves as liaison between Victoria College and VISD, said, “The goal is to enroll students who are highly motivated and for whom the cost of college might keep them from attending.”
Tuition, books, and fees are paid by VISD, while VC pays the VISD faculty teaching the college courses. Many of the Center’s instructors also serve as Victoria College adjunct instructors.
Jordan Chapa, 18, is among those in the Center’s first graduating class.
She was motivated to enroll in the early college program knowing that she would be two years ahead of her fellow college-bound classmates. By the time she transferred to a university, she would already be acclimated and adjusted to college life.
“After I graduate, I will enroll at the University of Texas-San Antonio and get my prerequisites there for Pharmacy and then, hopefully, move on to UT to pursue pharmacy school,” Chapa said.
She admits that some of the courses were challenging, but she and her classmates have helped each other through study groups.
“After school, we also went for help from our professors,” she said.
“We are very excited about it,” Lowe said of the program. “I am so proud of these students. They have worked really hard. By the end of the semester, all students at Liberty Academy will have some college hours to apply toward an associate degree. All of this would not be possible without the partnership between Victoria College and VISD, along with the dedicated faculty and staff and supportive administrators of the Center.”
- Eric Jensen
Liberty Academy Early College Center seniors graduating with an associate degree and a high school diploma are, seated, from left: Alisa Martinez, Cassidy Mangum, Carmen North, and Valerie Olivares. Standing, from left, are: Kimberly Fortner, Jordan Chapa, Jesse Sylva, Dalia Salas, and Gabrielle Boone. Other Liberty Academy seniors graduating with college credits are: Jazmine Espino, Vinson Ferran, Luis Garcia, Laeung-dao “Star” Girtman, Jonathon Gonzalez, Caitlynn Jones, Selena Mancillas, Joe Marin, Manuel Martinez, Whitney McSwain, Jacob Medrano, Jeremy Montes, Logan Nelson, Benjamin Poncio, Paige Sanchez, and Hailey Vasquez.
Dual Credit Students Can Get a Head Start
High school students planning to get an educational head start have that opportunity through dual credit classes offered through Victoria College.
Students enrolling in dual credit classes can take six hours of college credit per semester, beginning their junior year. They can complete 9-15 dual credit hours before high school graduation.
Depending on the course, dual credit classes are delivered in a variety of ways:
- Face-to-face — classes taken in person at the student’s high school or on VC’s Main Campus
- Online — classes taken entirely on the Internet
- Interactive Television (ITV) — classes taken remotely using a two-way live and interactive broadcasting system at select sites
Dual credit students have access to the full range of services available to all VC students. These include assistance with academic and career planning, library access, tutoring, and all student activities.
“We consistently have dual credit students in economics, English, government, history, math, psychology, and sociology, and often have them in speech, art, Spanish, and music,” said Cindy Buchholz, VC Dean of Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences. “Therefore, the majority of my full-time faculty teach dual credit students as part of their full load.”
Buchholz said dual credit students take most of these courses through ITV, which allows them to sit in their high school classrooms and to see the VC faculty member on a television monitor. They interact and ask questions, just as the students sitting in front of the instructors do.
Other VC dual credit courses include math, science, geography, drama, economics, literature, chemistry, biology, medical terminology, digital fundamentals and electricity principles (for Instrumentation & Electronics degrees), Process Technology courses, and Introduction to Criminal Justice.
“We serve more than 26 area high schools, though not all have dual credit students every semester; it just depends on the demand,” said Ashley Bergeron, VC Academic Advisor. “During the spring semester, we had 560 dual credit students enrolled.”