There are 26 seniors in Council Bluffs Community Schools’ Early College Academy this year, and 25 juniors just entered the program.
“They’re doing well — especially considering Iowa Western is conducting classes via hybrid this fall,” said coordinator Spencer Mathews. “I’m really proud of how they’re performing during a pandemic. They have this whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-job-done attitude, which I applaud.”
The Early College Academy provides opportunities for highly motivated high school juniors and seniors to earn an associate degree or certificate from Iowa Western Community College while finishing their high school diplomas. All 24 of the seniors in the program last year received associate degrees from Iowa Western in May, along with their high school diplomas. This year’s seniors are following in their footsteps, Mathews said.
“They are all currently on pace to finish their associate degrees in May,” he said.
It’s not too soon for high school sophomores to start thinking about whether they are interested in applying for admission to the program, Mathews said. The school district will hold three informational meetings for sophomores and their parents in November. The meetings will be held on Nov. 9-11 as follows:
• Nov. 9 – 6-7 p.m., Thomas Jefferson High School
• Nov. 10 – 6-7 p.m., Abraham Lincoln High School
• Nov. 11 – 6-7 p.m., virtual meeting
“It’ll also be an opportunity for sophomores to ask questions to current ECA students,” Mathews said. “I also have a couple graduates of the ECA program that stayed in the area, and they’re going to be present at the informational nights, as well.”
Selection for the ECA is based on grade-point average, credits in advance placement and concurrent-credit classes, an essay, attendance, teacher references and an interview.
“We do accept students from other school districts,” Mathews said. “ECA is available to all students in southwest Iowa.”
Mathews recommends students begin gathering application materials during November and December. Applications will be accepted from Jan. 1 through Jan. 31.
“In February, we will have face-to-face interviews,” he said. “In March, we select the 25 finalists. We really look at ECA selection from a holistic point of view. Not only are we looking for smart students, we’re look for hard-working and dedicated students. We’re looking for students who want to get out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves — students who want something more than the traditional high school experience.”
Participants will register for their fall 2021 classes at Iowa Western in April, Mathews said.
The school district will cover the cost of tuition, lab fees, class fees (if any) and textbooks for ECA students, he said. The state will reimburse the district for most of that cost. In addition, students will get a discount on food in Iowa Western’s cafeteria.
Mathews holds three two-hour sessions during the summer to help students make the transition to Iowa Western. Activities include a general orientation, touring the Iowa Western campus, meeting their fellow ECA students and picking up books and parking passes. This year, they were held in June, July and August.
“We do some team-building exercises,” he said. “In August, we go over campus resources.”
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