FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A select group of high school students in Florence won't just be high school students for this upcoming school year. They are getting some college credit out of the way, too.
Wilson High School in Florence School District 1 just launched an early college program. It's the first of its kind in the school district where students will walk away not only with their high school diploma, but also an Associate's of Arts degree. A total of 40 students will start taking those college classes the first day of classes.
The students have to apply through the partnership school, Florence Darlington Tech, have a certain GPA requirement and two letters of recommendation. Dr. Eric Robinson, the principal of Wilson High has wanted a program like this for years.
"I want to prepare my students for life after high school. If I can give them an edge and get them out of college sooner, and the big thing parents like about it, they pay less in college credit and can get out of school earlier," said Dr. Eric Robinson.
In Robinson's five years as principal, he said his goal was to expand their current dual credit program.
"One thing about this program is it's really going to bring everyone together and that's what we need," said Jill Young, an early college program teacher who will oversee students. "We're all working for the same goal and that's for these kids to graduate, have an associate's degree and move on to a four-year college."
Robinson explained this is just the beginning of the program.
"In the next two or three years, we want to expand to get more students in. When I first thought about the program, I just wasn't targeting, you know, those A honor roll students. I wanted something for everyone to be able to do, maybe. And like I said, make them career-ready and make them more accessible to college," Robinson said.
Classes will be taken during normal school hours and the goal is for the majority of them to be face-to-face, because the school believes a student will be more successful that way.
Janiya Plowden agrees. She is also an early college student.
"I'm very excited because I have a connection with a lot of the Wilson teachers from my first year and taking honors classes you get to know teachers on a classroom and personal level," said Janiya Plowden.
Plowden will be a sophomore who meets the GPA requirements, received two recommendation letters and is on the AP honor roll. She is also a cheerleader and said she has to have enough time management to balance being a high school and college student.
"I like school and I like learning. When I finish I want to go to College of Charleston and get my degree in nursing," Plowden said.
It's a program the school believes will truly make a difference in their students' lives. Young explained from her personal experience being a teacher.
"I get so emotional talking about this program because of the students I had last year. I mean I saw them coming before and after school for me to help them. That says a lot for the student when they realized I was available and wanting them to achieve more - then they wanted my help," Young said.
All of the classes will transfer to any South Carolina state college. The school hopes to expand to more than the Associate's of Arts degree.