Monrovia Unified’s Early College Program (ECP), a dual-enrollment partnership with Citrus College that allows students to graduate from high school with up to two years of college coursework, has been recognized with a Golden Bell Award by the California School Boards Association (CSBA).

Superintendent Dr. Katherine Thorossian and Director of Counseling, College and Careers Dr. Catherine Real accepted the award on behalf of the District during the CSBA annual conference, held in San Diego on Dec. 5.

“Monrovia Unified’s Early College Program is allowing first-generation students to receive a head start on their college education and create a culture of high expectations throughout the District,” Thorossian said. “Thank you to the CSBA for recognizing the hard work of our ECP team and the innovative vision of our Board of Education.”

The four-year program is designed to ease the financial burden of higher education and increase the number of underserved students who enroll in colleges and universities. The ECP is offered at no cost, with courses taught by college instructors and Monrovia High School teachers at Monrovia High.

Early College students pose during one of the college visits that occur throughout the school year, which give students a taste of the college experience. – Courtesy photo / MUSD

Monrovia Unified students can earn up to 54 units of transferable credits – about two years of college – providing a savings of as much as $70,000 for tuition, books, housing and other costs for attending the University of California. Since the program’s inception in 2017, more than 150 students have earned nearly 1,400 college credits.

Of the students in Monrovia Unified’s Early College Program, 41% qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, 35% are first-generation college candidates and more than 50% are Latino or African-American. The program’s passing rate is 95%, surpassing Citrus College’s rate by 25%.

“African American, Latino, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students are underrepresented in higher education,” Real said. “We want to build upon our district culture of equity and access for every student, increase student engagement, and provide relief for our families as they face the task of financing the ever-increasing cost of a college education.”

Students are recruited during their final year at middle school, with many starting the ECP the summer prior to freshman year with a Strategies for College Success course taught by a Monrovia Unified counselor. Other ECP courses include Basic Photography, History of Rock and Roll, Physical Oceanography, Art History and Public Address.

Director of Counseling, College, and Career Dr. Catherine Real (left) and Superintendent Dr. Katherine Thorossian (right) receive the Golden Bell Award for the District’s Early College Program during the California School Boards Association Annual Education Conference on Dec. 5. – Courtesy photo / MUSD

In 2016, the California State Legislature passed AB 288, which facilitated the establishment of College and Career Access Pathways (CCAP) to expand dual-enrollment opportunities for underserved students.

The Golden Bell Award is one of California’s leading educational honors, presented by the CSBA to promote excellence in public education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices.

“The Early College Program provides an array of opportunities for our college-bound students to experience the rigors of college classes and reduce the cost of a college education,” Board President Rob Hammond said. “Monrovia Unified is committed to providing our community the support and resources required to ensure world-class education to world-class students.”

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