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

Early college gives students head start

Lalita Sundarrajan is 15, is a sophomore in high school and has a 4.0. She also has 37 college credits. David Reid/The Collegian

By Taylor Jensen/nw news reporter

Lalita Sundarrajan is 15, is a sophomore in high school and has a 4.0. She also has 37 college credits.
David Reid/The Collegian

Sophomore Lalita Sundarrajan has 37 college credit hours and a 4.0 GPA. But she is only 15 years old.

She attends the Marine Creek Collegiate High School on NW Campus, a project dedicated to transforming high school students into early college success stories.

“You learn so many things in this school you wouldn’t [in a high school],” Sundarrajan said. “Here, I have a better educational opportunity than I had at my old school. I miss my friends, but I know I can visit them. Friends come and go, an education lasts a lifetime.”

Continuing education vice president Gary Goodwin said students are selected on four criteria: first time in college for the entire family, an economic disadvantage, limited English proficiency and a high risk of not attending college at all.

Ninety-one percent of the students are first-generation college-goers, and more than 75 percent are considered economically disadvantaged, Goodwin said.

“This is important because it is a project to develop a college-going culture,” he said. “The first year, it was difficult because the students were still emotionally tied to their high schools. Now, they have their own high school, and it’s made a big difference.”

Student Tiana Howard, 15, said she stepped out of her comfort zone with aspirations of getting a head start on becoming a doctor.

“My parents are my motivation. They have always pushed me to be better and receive a better education than they did,” she said. “Since I want to be a doctor, it’s a better decision for me to come here so I can get my associate [degree] out of the way. This is a big step for me.”

Junior Kaberah McGee, 17, said she was excited to be accepted into the program because she had the chance to accomplish something most students her age did not.

“At my old high school, there was intense peer pressure,” she said. “Over here, everyone has the same thought process and goal — to succeed.”

McGee said even though the experience was challenging, the assistance she received helped her realize she had made the right decision.

“It’s hard being in college classes and to not always know what to do,” she said. “You have to take it day by day and never be afraid to ask for help.”

Freshman Connor Pastor, 14, said even though it isn’t an average high school, TCC instructors prepared him for the experience.

“They actually want to motivate you to do your best, and that’s not something you always find,” he said. “There is a better connection with the students, and the teachers have more time for you.”

Pastor said that in comparison to his former high school, Marine Creek offers a better education.

“It’s simple. I didn’t have the opportunity to complete two years of college in my old high school,” he said. “I’m getting six years of education in four years.”

School principal Amy Moore said it not only provides students an opportunity to earn credits but also provides them a small community that helps them grow.

“I’ve seen tremendous maturation of the students in the program,” she said. “They have really transformed from their parents wanting this for them into them wanting this for themselves.”

Sundarrajan said she has advice for students who don’t consider themselves capable of college success.

“What’s the worst that can happen? You fail?” she said. “You have resources. It is the job of teachers and administrators to guide students on the path to success.

“When it comes to making choices, you can go big or go home.”

Sundarrajan said the school not only prepares students for college life but also teaches students to mature.

“You learn how to grow up here because we are assimilated with other people,” she said. “That’s why it’s more than just an educational experience.”

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