The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

South opens its early college high school

South opens its early college high school

By Jamil Oakford/ managing editor

South Campus just opened its doors to high school students who are working toward a high school diploma and a college degree in the next four years.

At the helm, Principal Lisa Castillo has been working toward this day since last spring.

“We hit the ground running in March,” she said. “When I was hired on, we started tweaking the plans that were already there.”

The Fort Worth Independent School District and TCC worked for a year and a half to build a curriculum program as well as pick out the majors available to the students.

Olivia Kepler assists her student Danehira Serna Mares in study period. Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian
Olivia Kepler assists her student Danehira Serna Mares in study period.
Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

Castillo said that during her first few months, she was working to build a school that wasn’t even built yet.

“When I was hired, this was still a dirt field,” she said. “It was five-and-a-half months of trying to get spots filled, making sure we had enough teachers hired, basically building a school without anything to look at.”

Fast forward several months, and the early college high school is in its first month of operation. Student Jason Thomas finds this to be the most fun he’s had in school.

“It’s like a school, but it’s a way more fun school,” he said. “It’s a calm place. There’s no drama so far.”

Ninth-grader Rosalyn Rivera agrees that it’s nice to have a drama-free school environment. After her family moved from New York to find better education options for her, she’s happy that she’s getting the chance to thrive in this kind of environment.

“I get to learn on my pace,” she said.

She said that the lack of sports teams and school-sponsored dances didn’t discourage her either.

“I know a lot of people may seem like, ‘Oh, we don’t have any sports or all that stuff, but in the long run, would you rather go to a couple parties and do nothing or get your education? Then when you’re like a grown person, you can have your own experiences and go to parties,’” she said.

While they are considered high school students, they are also considered college students. By the time they graduate, they will have 60 college credits along with their high school diploma, meaning they’ll leave with an associate degree.

Currently, the school offers four programs: math, chemistry, kinesiology and literature. Students are asked to choose from these four programs and decide what they’d want to focus on in their associate degree.

“We’re asking 14-year-olds what they want to do with the rest of their lives, and that’s a really hard choice,” Castillo said. “Most college students even struggle with making those decisions.”

Thomas is studying math but hopes to go into graphic design once he graduates from high school, and Rivera is studying literature to help get her used to all the reading she’ll be doing in law school.

But not all students have a clear idea of where they’re going just yet such as Melissa Tellez.

“It’ll really depend on how well I do in English,” she said.

But she appreciates all the work she’s been given and believes that this environment suits her better than the one she had in middle school.

“It’s a lot more work, but I know it’s keeping me on track,” she said.

Although it’s still early in the year, both the students and Castillo feel optimistic about this new academic year.

“The most inspiring thing I saw was the first parent meeting we held,” she said. “It was standing room only, and that makes me feel good. It means the parents and families are dedicated to their child’s education here.”

Rivera said she stressed over getting accepted, but now that she’s in classes, she understands this is a rare opportunity. And she wants to make the most out of it.

“The teachers aren’t just helping us with academics. They’re teaching us how to grow as people,” she said. “So not only are we leaving with a great career, but we’re leaving as better people.”

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