How Durham will get 1 in 4 high schoolers graduating with community college experience

Pascal Mubenga looked at the Durham Public Schools students on either side of him and smiled.

“I’m a proud superintendent here today,” he said.

Yanice Gibson and Zlata Bogdanova de Carvalho both are graduating seniors, but they will be leaving DPS with more than their high school diplomas.

Both earned associate degrees from Durham Technical Community College, thanks to two years at Middle College High School, which allows students to enroll in community college classes for free.

“As a first-generation student, this means not only a lot to me, but to my family,” Gibson said.

Gibson said she’s working now, but will soon be entering the Air Force. Bogdanova de Carvalho is applying to UNC-Chapel Hill’s nursing program.

“I feel confident jumping into college-level courses,” she said. “I cannot be more happy or proud.”

Now, DPS and Durham Tech are joining forces to give that opportunity to far more students. On Tuesday, they announced a goal of making sure 500 DPS students — 1 in 4 — graduate from high school with an associate’s degree or workforce credential by 2029.

“The driving force behind this partnership is to prepare Durham students for success, whether it’s in the skilled workforce or moving on to a four-year degree,” said J.B. Buxton, president of Durham Tech.

They hope to reach 25% within five years. Today, the percentage is below 5%, Mubenga estimated.

“That’s a very ambitious goal, and we’re really excited about it,” he said.

Riverside High School will be the first high school to have Durham Tech instructors in classrooms, starting this fall. Other schools will follow.

Oluwunmi Ariyo, who directs high school partnerships for Durham Tech, said they’ll be teaching:

  • ACA 122: College Transfer Success

  • ENG 111: Writing and Inquiry

  • COM 231: Public Speaking

Northern High School graduates clown around during their 2016 commencement at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Northern High School graduates clown around during their 2016 commencement at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Partnership will be free to kids

It’s all free to students, and DPS and Durham Tech said they are working out how to split the costs of books, transportation and supplies.

“Students will receive their associate’s from Durham Tech without having to pay tuition and can transfer with two years of college credit to a four-year state university,” said William Evans, college liaison at the Middle College. “Meaning families pay less for their four-year degree.”

Abraham Dones, who heads student services at Durham Tech, said students can explore multiple career paths through the partnership. There are workforce credentialing opportunities in biopharmaceuticals, nursing and more.

“Many time students may come to this experience thinking they have one option, or one route. This exposure will provide them with the opportunity to consider some other careers that may not have been a topic of conversation,” Dones said.

The state pays for public high school students’ community college tuition through its Career and College Promise.

Jeff Cox, incoming president of the state Community College System, said he hopes this will become a model for other districts in North Carolina.

“There is tremendous opportunity for our state when we create more opportunities for high school students to earn college credentials or to graduate with the confidence and benefits of completing college-faculty taught courses,” Cox said in a press release.

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