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Innovative Massachusetts Schools Foster Deeper Engagement with Hands-On Learning (US Department of Education blog, Progress, Aug. 21, 2015)

The Pathways Early College Innovation School at MWCC was recently showcased by the U.S. Department of Education. To view the complete article, click here.

Fast Track to College

The Pathways Early College Innovation School in Worcester County, Massachusetts, is also creating opportunities for students to progress at their own pace. The school offers an accelerated path to college for high school students who are eager to get started. Each year, Pathways gives 20 juniors the opportunity to graduate from high school in four years with both a diploma and an Associate’s degree by taking courses at Mount Wachusett Community College.

All Pathways students take a First Year Experience course during the first semester of their junior year to help ensure they succeed in college-level courses. “It’s everything you need to know to be a successful college student,” said Natalie Mercier, who runs the program and also serves as the college advisor. They learn to take advantage of a professor’s office hours, how to use a syllabus and how to conduct research.

Students also learn life skills such as time management and how to make healthy lifestyle choices, as well as how to apply to a four-year college, write a college essay and qualify for financial aid. “Everything a college counselor would provide, we provide here,” Mercier said.

Pathways students say being exposed to college life, and the support they received opened their eyes to new possibilities. One such student, Erin, is the second in her family to go to college (her older sister was the first). She graduated with the second Pathways cohort in 2013 with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in May 2015 from Fitchburg State University. She plans on enrolling in a master’s program in psychology. “My human biology professor [at Mount Wachusett Community College] provided me [with] the confidence I needed to pursue my passions,” Erin said. “He’d say ‘I see a lot of potential in your work. I think you could get a PhD; you could go to graduate school.’ That was hugely encouraging.”

(US Department of Education blog, Progress, Aug. 21, 2015)