Jump Start, a collaborative effort between Western Nevada College and five Nevada school districts to offer early college opportunities, is a success. That’s the word from high schools in the region as its first year winds down. From the grades being earned to the opportunities being afforded, high school juniors and seniors from 11 high schools are about to finish the first year of the Jump Start partnership by succeeding at a high rate.
First semester data shows Jump Start students completed college math courses at a 96.4 percent rate, and college English courses at a 98.5 percent rate. At the same time, families are saving money and students are being inspired to excel.
The high schools and WNC have the same aim — helping students who are interested and able to complete some or all of a two-year associate degree along with their high school diploma.
The 200 students who enrolled in Jump Start classes last fall and this spring spend at least part of their school day learning college math, English, anthropology, communications, history, or psychology.
Some students attend classes at one of WNC’s campuses in Carson City, Fallon or Minden. Others learn on site at their high school.
“Students at each high school or WNC campus have access to a teacher assistant who can answer questions and help motivate students,” said Deb Case, director of counseling services at WNC.
In speaking to some students, they say they are being challenged while moving more quickly toward a college degree.
“The teacher assistant supports the students along the way,” said Natalie Delbecq of Dayton High School. “The teachers have been very helpful. I learned how to take better notes, and supplemental instruction is available.” A big benefit for her family, though, is the money she’s saving and the guaranteed college credit for passing the class. She also enjoys meeting students from other schools.
Another Jump Start student, Morgan Tingle of Carson High School, said she was initially concerned about how hard college classes would be. But she found the cohort model with a tutor to assist when needed helped to allay her fears.
“The study guide helped, too,” she said. With a goal of becoming a nurse, Tingle said, “If you do what you’re here to do, you’ll do fine.”
Parents are also positive about the opportunities their children are being offered.
“It’s a priceless opportunity, and a benefit to our children,” said Karel Ahcona. “We’ll have fewer bored kids and fewer skipping school.” And, she said, students learn how to be self-motivated.
Case said teaching assistants will continue to play an instrumental role in the Jump Start program.
“They support and guide students through the sometimes challenging transition from high school level classes to successfully completing college level coursework,” she said.
WNC Dean of Students John Kinkella, who led creation of the Jump Start program, said the first year’s results have been extremely positive, thanks to the efforts of the principals and school boards of the five participating counties — Carson, Churchill, Douglas, Lyon and Storey.
Kent Jones, principal of Fernley High School and past president of the Nevada State ACT Association, was selected as the 2015 Jump Start College “Principal of the Year.”
“His student-centered leadership and dedication to the welfare of the Fernley High students has been evident in his approach to Jump Start College,” Kinkella said.
Jones provided the opportunity for all qualifying juniors and seniors to take 15 college credits each semester on the campus of Fernley High School, Kinkella said. Jump Start students will be able to attain their Associate of Arts degree from Western Nevada College concurrently with their graduation from Fernley High School, beginning next year.
Of the 38 juniors and seniors who participated in the Fernley Jump Start cohorts, 22 were on the college dean’s list, with a grade-point average of 3.5 or above.
Fernley’s model of offering Jump Start was unlike some other schools — a Jump Start wing was created within the high school and the existing time schedules. But Jump Start students have the freedom a college student would have on campus. They also have a different spring break and Thanksgiving break.
“They act like college students,” said Jones.