MILLEDGEVILLE — Since the 52 students making up Georgia College Early College’s (GCEC) legacy class transitioned to post-secondary institutions in 2010, GCEC has increased enrollment and graduated high school students who have pursued further education at a 100 percent rate.
“Enrollment has increased because of attrition; we’re on the climb right now. Last year at this time we had 198 students and this year we will have 240 students,” said Runee Sallad, GCEC principal. “We will have 134 high school students and 106 middle school students next year. For the first time ever we will have more high school students.”
Enrollment for the 2012-2013 academic year included 115 middle school students and 104 high school students. Of GCEC’s juniors and seniors, 100 percent of last year’s graduates are currently enrolled at a college or university.
“Academically our test scores have been phenomenal. We’ve gradually improved to have 100 percent pass the End of Course Tests. We also had 100 percent pass the CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests) and 100 percent pass the eighth grade math,” Sallad said. “We know our scores impact the scores of our home school system because it’s added to their system. Early College is essentially supporting the communities in which these students come from.”
Baldwin High School rising senior Jasmine Gray said GCEC has helped mold and encourage her to follow her dreams and career choice since enrolling at GCEC in the seventh grade.
“Everybody in the school pushes you all the time, so it makes the transition easier when going to college. The teachers won’t let you back out of anything,” said Gray, who plans to attend Georgia Tech or Spelmen College to major in statistics. “I will have 36 college credits when I graduate, so I’ll be starting college as a sophomore.”
Founded during the 2006-2007 school year, the GCEC program has a purpose to provide the availability of attending college to students that might not otherwise have the opportunity or means to do so independently, servicing students in grades seven through 12 from Baldwin and Putnam counties. The school functions as a collaboration through Georgia College, Oconee Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) and Baldwin and Putnam county school districts.
“The transition from high school to college is much easier because they are learning on a college campus and they get comfortable with the layout. At Early College we help students to effectively communicate with their instructors and provide support to ensure their success,” Sallad said. “We only have 12 teachers, so the small group instruction allows students to get comfortable because they know their teacher. We’re somewhat of a family.”
When Sallad assumed the principal position in 2011, she said one of the major challenges has been establishing “who we are.”
“When I first came, parents and students expressed their need for an identity,” she said. “Now, we know who we are. We may not have a homecoming court but we have a coronation. Students feel and know they will never be separate from their home campuses. We’ve built relationships with all of the main schools so now parents and students feel like they are part of both.”
Applications to apply for the GCEC program begins in winter of 6th grade for Baldwin and Putnam county schools. By the time students graduate with a high school diploma, more than 50 hours of college course work can be earned. GCEC students also have the chance to participate in a number of clubs, including poetry, glee, fitness, yearbook, violin, science/technology, math/engineering and the debate team.
Going into the future, Sallad hopes to improve the school’s organizational structure and distinguish students, faculty and parents more often where it’s due diligence.
“We would like to focus more on service learning this year, be more organized in what we do, provide more recognition of students each month and focus on our teachers and parents. In the midst of these past two years in reorganizing and rebuilding, we want to focus on showing our appreciation and enhancing what we’ve already put in place,” Sallad said. “We’re really grateful for our parents who have helped tremendously with activities that focus on culture and climate. This year we were fortunate to have community mentors that mentored seniors and were instrumental in helping students seek out colleges. I personally thank the Baldwin and Putnam county board of education because I couldn’t ask for a better team of administrators to work with.”
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