For two decades, the Washoe County School District (WCSD) has worked in partnership with Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) to offer motivated sophomores, juniors, and seniors the opportunity to earn their high school diplomas while simultaneously getting a head start on college by taking free college classes and availing themselves of college resources, labs, learning centers, tutors, and activities with college-level instructors.
The school is called TMCC High School, and while most students revel in the high school experience, these students are already casting ahead to college by taking college-level courses and earning technical certificates or associate degrees while still enrolled in high school.
TMCC High School opened its doors to WCSD students on the community college campus in 1997. Since then, more than 1,000 students have graduated from TMCC High School, already on the pathway for college and technical careers. Dual credits allow students to make significant progress toward their goals before they ever cross the graduation stage to receive their high school diplomas. In 2015, 54 students earned their associate degree in addition to their high school diploma. In 2014, 19 students earned their associate degree in addition to their diploma.
There is plenty of support and resources available for students who want to learn on the fast track. The “Running Start” program at TMCC High School allows students to enroll in a full load of college courses during their senior year of high school, moving them ever closer to the associate degree upon their graduation from high school. Taking and passing college courses while still in high school can save families up to $6,000 in tuition from TMCC alone. Students and their families can save significantly more if they plan to attend UNR, UNLV, or will be moving out of state to attend college. A student who graduates with an associate degree can embark on his or her junior year of college immediately upon graduation from high school.
The partnership between WCSD and TMCC has led to other collaborations within the District as well: With support from a grant from the E.L. Cord Foundation, the “We Are College” program was launched in the spring of 2015. “We Are College” enables TMCC High School, TMCC, and Sparks Middle School staff to work with students and families at Sparks Middle School to provide access to college resources, develop academic, social, and emotional readiness, and support success in their freshman year of high school necessary to enter TMCC High School in the tenth grade. Parents are also provided with access to college resources which focus on college and career readiness and financial aid, thereby involving and investing the entire family in the student’s future success.
Thanks to a historic $4.3 million donation to TMCC from the William N. Pennington Foundation, TMCC High School has expanded course offerings to the Pennington Applied Technology Center this semester. The TMCC High School Technical Pathway is designed to benefit workforce training in northern Nevada in recognition of the increasing need for skilled employees to support the businesses relocating to the area from around the world.
Students choosing the Technical Pathway may take courses in advanced manufacturing, architecture, automotive, construction management, diesel technology, energy technologies, HVAC, welding, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
By enrolling in dual-credit courses and adding technical coursework to their curriculum, students may graduate with a high school diploma in one hand and a college certificate of achievement or a skills certificate in the other.
Partnerships play a crucial role in forging paths in our community’s future, especially when it comes to creating economic growth and diversity. Well-trained students will become well-trained professionals, and students who want to attend college will succeed in their studies, thanks to collaborations between schools and businesses, teachers and technical experts.
After two decades, the idea that began as a hand-in-hand proposition between WCSD and TMCC back in 1997 has grown into a challenging and highly successful academic program for students in Washoe County. Thanks to dedicated staff members from both institutions and experts in a variety of fields in the community, students face bright futures and job prospects after they cross that graduation stage.
Outstanding graduation rates tell the story: TMCC High School boasts a 100 percent graduation rate for three of the last four years, and students continue to excel and achieve, proof positive that partnerships create opportunities that were unheard of even a few decades ago.
Traci Davis is the superintendent of schools for the Washoe County School District.