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Early College Experience Graduates First Class

Early College Experience graduating class When they were sophomores, members of the first group of students in the District’s Early College Experience made a pledge to work hard and believe in their abilities during a special enrollment ceremony at St. Louis Community College – Forest Park. Two years later, 11 of them graduated from University City High School with both a diploma and a two-year degree, while most others had earned significant and transferable college credits.

Early College Experience Graduates First Class

By Heather Gain
Communications Specialist

Eleven University City High School seniors graduated in June with two degrees – a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree from St. Louis Community College.

The students were the first group to graduate from the Early College Experience Program in The School District of University City. Six others graduated with 42 college credits that they can transfer to any four-year school in Missouri.

University City High School Counselor Katy-Jane Johnson, the program’s director, said she was proud of the hard work the students put into their degrees.
“The amount of grit and determination this program takes cannot be overstated. These students charted a new course and did whatever they needed to achieve their goals,” Johnson said. “Every single one of them had personal challenges along the way but stayed focused and determined.”

The students signed up for the experience when they were sophomores. The competitive program requires a 3.0 GPA or above and a formal application. Students were selected based on academic performance, drive and commitment.

The students began their coursework in the summer before their junior year on the campus of STLCC-Forest Park. During their junior year, students took dual-enrollment courses at the high school. Between their junior and senior years, the students transitioned to the STLCC-Forest Park campus for the remainder of the program. They took six credit hours in the summer and a full course load during their senior year.

The program gives students a head start on future degrees and significantly reduces future college expenses. The Early College Experience was no-cost to students.
Recent graduate Tiayana Brown, 18, enrolled because she needed financial help to reach her goal to be a clinical psychologist. She didn’t think she could afford a degree at a four-year college on her own.

She found the experience to be challenging, but fulfilling. Her Black Humanities course was her favorite class.

“I was able to learn more about Black history talking about it in my class than we ever read in our high school textbooks,” Brown said. “I learned a lot more about myself.”

Brown said the District supported her and her fellow students with consistent mentoring, study groups and group text chats.

“Miss Johnson made sure we would get the proper resources and texted our professors when we had issues,” she said.
Brown, who continued taking college courses this summer, is enrolled at the University of Missouri-St. Louis for the fall in pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a certificate in trauma studies.

Johnson said the opportunity to take college classes during high school helps them transition to higher education with important support.
“Freshman year they are on their own in college. Instead of having to figure it out alone, they have people to help them on campus every day doing grade checks, problem-solving and getting them resources,” she said.

Tyjah Hudson also graduated from the program in June and enrolled at Loyola University in Chicago. She plans to study biology and has her sights set on medical school.

She said she’s nervous about moving away and living on campus. But, she’s ready to tackle the course load because of her training in the Early College Experience.

Hudson said she learned how to be organized and self-motivated in the program.

“My grades went up a whole lot after my sophomore year. I ended up with a 4.0,” she said. “The teachers were totally different and treated us like adults.”
Johnson said ending their senior year in a pandemic was an additional challenge. But the struggle made graduation even sweeter.
“Seeing them walk across the stage was just such a special moment,” she said.