Norton City Schools
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J. I. Burton/MECC Partnership Benefits Students and Parents

Reprinted from MECC Website.  Please click here to see in its entirety.

Norton cohortBig Stone Gap, VA – Graduating at the top of your class from high school is a major accomplishment. But graduating at the top of your class with an entire year of college credit already completed is nothing short of outstanding.

A group of 20 J.I. Burton high schools seniors are among the first cohort to pioneer Norton City Schools’ dual enrollment partnership program with Mountain Empire Community College. The program has allowed students to earn college credit on MECC’s campus, while also finishing their senior year in high school.

During the 2012-13 school year, a select group of students board a bus early each morning at Norton and travel a short distance to MECC’s campus. While there, the cohort completes college-level English, Political Science, Humanities, and Science courses. Some of the classes are only offered for the J.I. Burton cohort, but most are integrated with other MECC students. The students return to class in the afternoon, completing their last few courses of the day at JI Burton.

J.I. Burton Principal Aaron Williams describes this unique dual enrollment program as a “win-win” for students and parents. The school approached MECC in 2012 with an idea to create a path for students to get a jump-start on college while in high school.

“It has been a good opportunity for our seniors. A lot of times, seniors will have completed a majority of their required courses, and they take the last year off. With the dual enrollment program, they are getting a head start on the next phase of their lives,” said Williams. “Not only are the courses challenging, but these students will be better prepared for college.”

Carolyn Reynolds, Mountain Empire Community College’s Dean of Arts and Sciences, said the program also benefits parents financially. Students are able to take the courses at no cost, allowing parents to save money on future college expenses. Norton City Schools covers the student’s portion of tuition expenses as long as they maintain a C average or higher and do not exceed the number of absences allowed each semester. In addition, the school system purchases the student’s college textbooks.

“It’s been a great partnership,” added Reynolds. “This came about because Norton’s Superintendent Jeff Comer was visionary in a sense. He was able to think outside the box and offer this opportunity to help students succeed. The students were also committed. They understood that they would take challenging coursework. They have done very well in this program.”

Asked if the past year has been challenging, the J.I. Burton students sitting in MECC Assistant Professor Kyle Scanlan’s PLS 211 classroom answer a collective and resounding “yes.”

“It gets us prepared for when we actually start college,” said Burton senior Logan H. “In high school, teachers are always on top of you for your assignment to get it in on time. But in college, it is more independent. You have to be more self-disciplined.”

Some students note that taking courses during the day away from J.I. Burton has also forced them to make sacrifices. “You do sacrifice a part of your senior year to get an advantage,” said Jessalyn M. “But our group has gotten closer here. We have stuck together.”

Other students note that the experience has made them anticipate college even more. Several seniors will remain at MECC and complete their two-year degree. The majority of the cohort will transfer their college credits to UVa-Wise, East Tennessee State University, Virginia Tech, and University of Virginia.

Williams said Norton plans to continue the dual enrollment program next year with MECC, and he hopes to expand the partnership in the future. Student Lexie A. said she would encourage her fellow JI Burton underclassmen to consider the opportunity. “There is no easing into this program. When you are here, you are in college. You get as much out of it as what you put into it. Our group wanted to show that we were capable of doing the same level of work as the college students, and I think we did that.”

For more information on the J.I. Burton and MECC Dual Enrollment Program, please contact Amy Greear, Coordinator of Community Relations, at (276) 523-7480.

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