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Early College Designation Announced

A group of people lines up for a photo.
(from left to right) Gardner High School Student Karl Siniawski , Fitchburg High School Student AhSen Khan , Principal of Leominster High School Steven Dubzinski, Fitchburg High School Student Wonuola Ashaju, Principal of FHS Jeremy Roche, Principal of GHS Paula Bolger, GHS Student Trinity Bridge, MWCC President James Vander Hooven, Fitchburg State University President Richard Lapidus, Provost of FSU Alberto Cardelle, VP at FSU Cathy Canney, MWCC Assistant Dean for K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement Fagan Forhan, Vice President for External Affairs, Communications and K-12 Partnerships Lea Ann Scales, and Director of Early College & Dual Enrollment Sara Vettesse.

Fitchburg State University, Mount Wachusett Community College, Fitchburg High School, Leominster High School, Sizer School and Gardner High School will launch a new early college high school program that will give students an opportunity to earn 12 college credits while still in high school. The Early College Designation was among several announced Thursday by Gov. Charlie Baker during an event at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston.

The colleges and areas high schools collaborated to develop the North Central Massachusetts Early College Academy. The academy will build upon early college programs already in existence at the member schools, creating an overarching model that incorporates their best practices and expands the number of students who can be accommodated. The program is designed to serve students who are first-generation, low-income and otherwise under-represented in higher education.

“This collaboration will open doors of opportunity for high school students across the region and will give them the tools to persist and succeed in college,” Fitchburg State President Richard S. Lapidus said.

“This designation creates a new pathway for area students to accelerate their education and begin college courses in high school,” Mount Wachusett Community College President James Vander Hooven said. “We are fortunate to have such strong local partners and I look forward to expanding the opportunity for early college to more students.”

The academy’s curriculum pathways will initially include liberal arts; health care; business/computer information; biology; industrial technology/engineering; and environmental and earth science. Through the academy, students will be able to attain college credits and credentials prior to graduation, moving them towards a certificate, associate’s and/or bachelor’s degrees. This work will ultimately result in a cohesive public education strategy that bridges high school and higher education for youth in North Central Massachusetts, and will serve as a framework for expansion across the region.

The program provides college exposure to students early in high school who otherwise may not have considered higher education an option. Those barriers will be addressed during the program, facilitating successful degree program completion and opening students to career opportunities that may not have imagined for themselves.

Under the Early College Designation put forth by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) and Board of Elementary & Secondary Education (BESE), approved designated early college programs in Massachusetts will provide equitable access; guided academic pathways; enhanced student support; relevant connection to career; and effective partnerships.