Whale Branch Early College High School boosts number of seniors earning college degrees through TCL

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Seven Whale Branch Early College High School seniors who will receive their high school diplomas Wednesday night have already completed their first two years of college.

The students took full advantage of a partnership with the Technical College of the Lowcountry that allows Whale Branch students to take college courses – and earn two-year Associate’s degrees – while still in high school.  That represents a two-year head-start as they begin work toward a Bachelor’s degree or enter the workforce.

The seven students – along with the nine more who earned college certificates – represent big improvements for the joint WBECHS-TCL initiative, which is completing its fourth year.  Two students in last year’s graduating class earned “double Associate’s degrees,” while seven earned college certificates.  This year five of the seven students earning degrees earned double Associate’s degrees.

Whale Branch students earning college degrees this year are Madison Auten, Raina Bryan, Michelle Gee, Austin Holbrook, Emanie McGhee, Shelby Saunders and James Scott.

The seven students were recognized at the recent TCL graduation ceremony as Associate’s degree candidates.  In addition, nine other Whale Branch seniors graduated with college certificates for completing significant college-level coursework at TCL: Nicholas Belegrinos; Michael Dantzler; Maya Linyard; Ryan Reed; Rietta Salters; Stephon Sarmiento-Hollins; Jessica Seeger; Michaela Thompson and Christopher Wallace.

“The Whale Branch partnership with TCL has tremendous potential,” said Superintendent Jeff Moss.  “Students can accelerate their learning and earn college credits in high school, which basically allows them to shorten their time in college and save roughly half of those expenses.  They earn college credits without having to pay for them, which is something that their parents can certainly appreciate.”

While any district student can take college-level courses at TCL, Whale Branch High’s instructional program is built around its partnership with TCL.  Of this year’s graduating class of 101 seniors, 34 (one out of three) completed college classes and earned college credits.  With underclassmen included in the school’s 2013-14 total, Whale Branch students earned more than 950 college credits over the past year.

Whale Branch Early College High is one of 10 district schools that parents can select even if they are outside children’s zoned attendance areas.  Eighty-four parental requests to transfer their children from other high schools to Whale Branch have been approved for next school year, up from 66 last year.

Provided by Beaufort County School District, Jim Foster