Expanding Early College in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

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Last August, I started as an AmeriCorps VISTA, where I worked to promote a college-going culture and college success in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. My experience growing up, going to college, and working in different areas of the Upper Peninsula made me a good fit for the job. I understood the culture, and had just graduated from Northern Michigan University. Therefore, I knew the challenges of getting into, being successful, and staying in college.

A significant part of my work over the past year was dedicated to launching a new program called the Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP) Early College Program. It is a partnership between all of the high schools in Chippewa, Luce, and Mackinac counties and Lake Superior State University (LSSU). This program allows area students to earn a high school diploma, and college credits, leading up to an associate's degree from LSSU tuition free!

How this works is students in 9th grade take their normal high school course load. If a student has an interest in the Early College program they take a one credit university seminar course during 10th grade, and complete an application to be eligible for the program. If accepted they will take a combination of college and high school classes in 11th and 12th grade. And at grade 13, students will complete their high school graduation requirement with one math or math related course and the remaining classes will be on LSSU's campus. This additional year of high school gives students more time to transition to post-secondary opportunities, but also cuts a year off of a traditional associate’s degree saving students money and time.

My main goal for the year was to create awareness and support of the Early College. I started off by creating resources like brochures, FAQ sheets, presentations, and a logo to begin building our public identity. In addition to those resources I established an online presence that people could use to learn more about what the program is, and what we were accomplishing. A big part of the success of the marketing came from my work with a group of LSSU students. Ralf Wilhelms, a Marketing professor at the college, allowed his students to work on marketing the program as their senior project.

In an effort to better connect with the communities, I went out to the schools and talked with students, parents, and administrators. Our Early College Coordinator, Geralyn Narkiewicz and I reached out to all of the area high schools with eligible students. In turn we were invited to open houses, parent-teacher conferences, and question and answer sessions to talk more directly with the communities. It was eye opening to see how informed students were about how beneficial the program could be for their futures.

Since the planning phases of the Early College, it has been centered on students who can really benefit from the program. Low income, first generation, and underrepresented groups are the focus, but anyone who is eligible can apply and be accepted into the program. The EUP Early College is a way to remove financial barriers that students may have and change the perception of who can earn a college degree.

All of the hard work that was done this year has culminated in our first cohort of 34 students from 7 different schools in the EUP. Over the past few months, we’ve also received word of increased interest in the program for next year’s group of students. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!


Author: Chelsea Hart, Early College Liaison, Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District
Michigan Nonprofit Association AmeriCorps VISTA Program
Posted: July 24, 2018 

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