Students in Early College Program feel like Butler is their campus, too

When asked what they want to do after college, every Shortridge Magnet High School junior in the Early College Program has a ready answer.

They have blended in with Butler University students, walking into class with their C-Club in hand and books in tow.

“We’re more comfortable here and less out of place,” Terrence Jackson, a Shortridge student, said.“We feel like this is our campus, too.”

This semester there are eight juniors enrolled in the program, which allows students to earn college credit by attending ongoing Butler classes. They take a three- or four-credit hour class every semester, as well as a strategies for success course and a college prep class their junior year.

Eleven juniors started in fall 2011’s inaugural class. Next year there will be juniors and seniors enrolled, as Shortridge grows to include a senior class.

The ultimate goal is for the students to pursue a college degree and beyond.

Jackson, who said he wants to major in something technical like computer science after high school, said he has learned a lot about time management since his first day at Butler. He said while freshmen and sophomores may not be as aware of the program, his classmates are.

“All the juniors know about it,” he said. “We’re the best of the best, and we get to come here.”

Benji Gerlitz, who wants to pursue acting, said he feels free when he’s at Butler, managing his own time and learning skills for college.

“It’s a head start,” Gerlitz said. “For the average student going from high school to college, it’s a shock. I feel like we’re gradually going between high school and college.”

Darlene Brown, who wants to some day work in media production, said the program has made her more confident about going to college.

“Some people think it’s the hardest thing you’ll do in life,” she said, “but it’s not.”

Emily Burke, the associate director of the  Learning Resource Center who teaches the strategies for success and college prep classes, said that the juniors are already beginning to look at colleges and that they’ve embraced the opportunity.

“I’ve seen their comfort level increase and their maturity level increase,” she said. “I’m impressed by the caliber of students, their commitment and how serious they are about the community.”

Burke said that the maximum size for each class at this point would be about 12 students. She said that while the number of Shortridge’s roughly 500 students who are involved is small, administrators are trying to extend the reach in other parts of the partnership.

“We have to figure out how all the components of this fit in,” she said.

Associate Provost Mary Macmanus Ramsbottom, who serves as the administrative liaison for the partnership and director of the Early College Program, said it prepares the students for college, no matter where they attend.

“This is not all about getting these students to come to Butler,” Ramsbottom said. “Our commitment to these students is to prepare to launch them into college degree programs successfully—a college degree program of their choosing.”

Shortridge’s magnet is law and public policy, but Ramsbottom  said she hopes students embrace science, technology, engineering and math opportunities.

Because of this, pre-calculus and calculus 1 will be offered for senior students next semester. Intermediate Chinese will be offered for students who have already taken it for three years at Shortridge, and she said the goal is to add a wide variety of disciplines to the course offerings.

Ramsbottom said setting the college program has been a priority in the partnership, and Shortridge Principal Stan Law said he hopes more students will get involved in the program in the coming years.

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