Early College Program Gives Monrovia Students Advantage

Monrovia students register for Spring Early College courses. -Courtesy Photo
Monrovia students register for Spring Early College courses. -Courtesy Photo


By May S. Ruiz

High school students in Monrovia can get an early start to college beginning in the 2017-2018 school year when the district rolls out its dual or concurrent enrollment program.

A partnership between Monrovia Unified School District (MUSD) and Citrus Community College District (CCCD), the Early College Program (ECP) gives Monrovia high school students the opportunity to take Citrus College courses that meet high school graduation requirements and earn college credit.

The collaboration came about after countless hours of deliberation and planning by MUSD superintendent, Dr. Katherine Thorossian, and Citrus College president, Dr. Geraldine Perri. To implement the program, Catherine Real came on board one-and-a-half years ago as MUSD’s Director of Counseling, College and Careers. She and Dr. Eric Rabitoy, Citrus College’s Dean of Natural & Physical Sciences and Library, are the two main people responsible for its success.

Real explains, “The idea began on a small-scale version with one class at a time, and an a la carte offering of courses. However, starting this fall, we’re going into a full, four-year robust program with 16 subjects on offer – a level that doesn’t exist in any other school at this time. Over a period of four years students will take these courses on our campus. These are organized and structured so that they can, for the most part, take them during a regular school day and still be able to take an elective subject. They won’t have to choose between being an athlete or being a dancer and earning college credits. Students can be doing both simultaneously.”

“Research tells us that student choice is really important for student engagement. When they have a lot of different choices in their assignment and course of study, they’re on task and happier on campus. They want to be there because they have a say in their future; without giving up control to students entirely, we gave them more power over what they’re doing,” Real adds.

Monrovia High School’s (MHS) administration assisted with organizing the registration events and parent informational meetings. MHS principal, Kirk McGinnis, and associate principal, Fil Lujan, have been the point people at the site with the counseling team – Grace Yoshimoto, Samara Hirsch, Amanda Ghezzi, Noel Hernandez, and Tam Ly – who worked individually with students.

A model cohort is being implemented where kids fill in an application in eighth grade for a college course for their specific grade. Beginning this Fall, Citrus College will be offering courses taught by their instructors on the MHS campus. According to Real, MUSD worked closely with Dr. Rabitoy to put together a slate of courses that 13- to 14-year-olds would actually find interesting.

Real expounds, “We want subjects that are engaging and not too difficult that they fail. While these are college courses, we want to ensure they’re also subjects where it’s possible for them to do well. We’re hiring tutors from surrounding colleges and universities to be in the classes with the students, instructors, and their assistants. Wednesdays are early release days so we’re using that for tutorials for students who need extra help. We’re not only providing opportunities but structured support as well.”

“The grades students will earn are going on their transcript so we don’t want a poor transcript to hinder their prospects for getting financial aid later on. It’s not a good thing to start college with an F,” Real further says.

To prepare rising ninth graders for the rigors of dual enrollment, Citrus College will offer Counseling 160 which ECP students will have to take the summer before they enter high school. The class outlines strategies for college success.

As ninth graders, they can choose to take either History of Rock & Roll or Modern Art in the Fall. In the spring they will take only one course – Spanish. Students in the dual or concurrent enrollment program can take two courses per semester, except Spanish, from 7:30 to 9:00 on Mondays and Thursdays and Tuesdays and Fridays. They will follow a structured track with courses specific to their grade level – Anthropology 212; Art 105; Counseling 160; Economics 100; English 101 and 103; Environmental Science 130; Geography 102; Math 150 and 165; Music 113; Photography 101; Politics 103; Psychology 101; Spanish 101 and 102; and Speech 101 – so when they complete all college courses they will have earned 53 units of college credits.

“Students who complete all four years and courses also get the IGETC (Intersegmental General Education Transfer Certificate) which is recognized by all UC and Cal State universities – it means they have finished all their general education requirements … with the exception of some course requiring more in depth studies like engineering, information technology or biology,” continues Real. “Some private schools who also recognize IGETC. If students take a few more courses in between, they can earn an Associate’s degree.”

“The impetus behind Monrovia’s ECP is to give students access to college and career readiness; to give them opportunities to connect in positive ways at their school,” Real expounds. “It is funded through a California College Readiness Block Grant that requires that all programs are at zero cost to students. Everything from tuition, to books are all covered by this grant – giving kids an equal playing field.”

Real expounds, “We’re very excited about this. It’s such a great value when you put a dollar amount to the cost of tuition, books, room and boarding. They’re actually going to college for free! I think it will be a hugely popular program.”

“Another project I’m currently working on is the College Promise Grant which will allow us to support the ECP. We are negotiating on a partnership with Cal State Pomona to provide additional counseling for parents and students. We also have future plans to expand our university affiliations, including one with University of La Verne. I would like to think that all these will draw families back to our schools,” Real concludes.

Monrovia High School has historically been an excellent school. Ninety-two percent of the class of 2016 matriculated to college upon graduation. They have been accepted to and are currently attending four-year universities including Bryn Mawr, Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Los Angeles, Juilliard School, UC Berkley, and USC.

MUSD’s Early College Program has just made it so much easier for its high school students to further their education and set a clear path for a future career. Real declares, “It’s college access and equity”. No truer words have ever been spoken.


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