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Mount/Murdock Dual Enrollment Program Lauded (The Gardner News)

The Gardner News

Friday, July 10, 2015

GARDNER – A career-oriented dual enrollment program that allows high school seniors from Winchendon to simultaneously earn their diploma and an academic certificate while enrolled full time at Mount Wachusett Community Col­lege, is among three early college partnerships lauded in a newly released report from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy.

The Rennie Center policy brief, Early College Designs: Ac­hieving College- and Career-Readiness for all Massachusetts Students, explores successful e­ar­ly college models as part of the center’s Roadmap to Ex­panding Opportunity series.

T­h­e Robinson-Broadhurst Fou­ndation Career Tech Sch­ol­arship program, a one-year, full-time dual enrollment program for seniors at Murdock Mi­ddle/High School, prepares students for a variety of careers including information technology, allied health, auto technology, cybersecurity, accounting, bookkeeping, analytical laboratory and quality systems, and small business management.

The program was established in 2012 through a grant from the Robinson-Broadhurst Fou­ndation to assist low-income, first-generation college stude­nts, and accepts up to six students each year.

By the end of a full academic year attending college courses, the students earn credentials to enter the workforce and compl­ete the first year toward an associate or bachelor’s degree. Stu­dents are provided with scholarships from the Robinson-Bro­adhurst Foundation to cover the costs of the college courses.

The programs highlighted in the policy brief “demonstrate that early college offers an innovative – and viable – solution to persistent problems of college access and persistence,” Chad d’Entremont, Executive Dir­ector of the Rennie Center, no­tes in a letter announcing the ne­w policy brief. “By allowing participants to accumulate college credits and complete foundational courses before leaving high school, early college helps put students on a trajectory toward degree attainment.”

In its brief, the Rennie Center notes the Mount Wac­husett-Murdock par­tner­ship includes a variety of support services for students, including weekly meetings with an advisor, and three hours each week of professional tutoring a­n­d peer tutoring. In addition, stu­dents retain their connection with their guidance counselor at Murdock.

The program, which begins its fifth year this fall, is an innovative partnership between the college, the Winchendon school system and the private community foundation, said Mount Wachusett President Daniel M. Asquino.

“We are most grateful for the continued support of the Rob­inson-Broadhurst Fo­un­dation. This program not only helps student achieve their goal of obtaining a college education without accruing tremendous loan debt, but ultimately suppo­rts the region’s economy by pre­paring young people with skills they can directly apply in the workforce.”

“The dual-enrollment program allows Murdock students a­­n amazing opportunity to earn college credits for free,” said Pri­ncipal Joshua Romano. “Any ad­vantage our students can get to become competitive with stude­nts from other schools just helps more of our students succeed in college and beyond.”

Being in the Robinson-Bro­adhurst dual-enrollment program was “a life-changing experience,” said Dakota Wood, a 2014 graduate who went on to earn an associate degree from Mount Wachusett in Allied Health in anticipation of continuing on for a degree in nursing. “I graduated high school with a free year of college under my belt. It’s absolutely the best thing I could have done.”

Wood said the flexible schedule allowed him to still participate in high school activities, in­c­luding music classes, band, chorus and theater productions.

In addition to the Com­monwealth Dual Enrollment Program, also cited in the policy brief, Mount Wachusett offers two other signature dual enrollment programs open to Mas­sachusetts students, The Pa­thways Early College Inn­ovation Sc­hool and the Ga­teway to Co­llege program, in partnership wi­th the Ralph C. Mahar Reg­ional School Di­strict.

An early college program bet­­ween Amesbury High Sch­ool and Northern Essex Com­mu­nity College, and a dual enr­ollment program between Mar­lborough High School an­d Fra­mingham State Un­ive­rsity, were also highlighted by the Rennie Center’s policy brief.

The Rennie Center was lau­nched in 2002 by then-Secr­etary of Education Paul Reville as a di­vision of the Mas­sachusetts In­s­titute for a New Com­m­onwealth (MassINC). In 2005, the Cambridge-based center be­came an independent non-profit organization committed to addressing the critical challenges of reforming education in Massachusetts.