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Page 84 MARCH APRIL 2016 23 RICHLAND COLLEGIATE HIGH SCHOOL ALLOWS STUDENTS TO EARN A HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE DEGREE SIMULTANEOUSLY. OH AND DID WE MENTION ITS FREE. Making the Grade What if your child could graduate from high school with a full two-year associates degree for free It can happenif you are a resident of Dallas County. For any high school student in north Texas the opportunity exists for a significantly lower cost than it would be for a public university. Where you ask At Richland Collegiate High School. This innovative program was established in 2006 to allow local high school students the opportunity to get some college credit while still in high school with the hope that they would be motivated to continue with their education. To date the program has only been open to high school juniors and seniors but with the passage of House Bill 505 they will now be able to serve freshmen and sophomores as well. According to Shawntae Minyard program services specialist for the dual credit program the playing field is wide open. Their students represent a wide demographic range home school public school and private school students from seven local counties and all kinds of backgrounds make up their current student population of about 2000 students and the numbers are expected to more than double with the addition of two new grade levels and fewer restrictions on enrollment. Claire Lesprit is a senior this year and by all accounts her success as a dual credit student at Richland Collegiate High School is a testament to her own personal dedication and also to the program itself. She will graduate in May with two years of college under her belt. However it wasnt a decision her family took lightly. Her proud mom Juliet says At first I was very skeptical about the program in general. I was also not suremydaughterwouldtacklethedoublecurriculum meaningattendingtohighschoolstudieswhilestudying for the college courses. Although rigorous the program is designed to offer support to each student and each semester the students meet with an academic advisor to assess what classes are recommended. Juliet credits these counselor visits for much of Claires success. She says The high school advisors were really on top of everything and very attentive to Claires schedule and progress. Students at Richland must work toward meeting their high school diploma requirements while some classes count toward both high school and college credit. The students entering the program must have the approval of a high school counselor and meet certain Texas Success Initiative test scores. After admission they must pass with a C average or higher in order to stay in the program. The college credit they earn by graduation will vary according to their own interests and academic levels. While at Richland students can participate in theater intramural sports attend prom and other traditional high school programs on campus. But for Claire and many others the lure of getting dual degrees outweighs many of the traditional high school experiences. I needed a little freedom and less of the typical nonsense that goes on in high school says Claire Its a challenge but Richland gives us more opportunities to be young adults. At Richland Collegiate High School students can learn to be young adults while earning college creditall potentially for free richlandcollege.edurchs By AliciaWanek High school student Claire Lesprit poses here on a recent college visit toThe University ofTexas at Austin.The Richland Collegiate High School senior graduates high school in May with two years of college under her belt at no cost. Its a challenge but Richland gives us more opportunities to be young adults. - Claire Lesprit Richland Collegiate High School Student