HEC prepares students for college

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Mar 25, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Margret Stiles's STEM math class collects data by racing cars and measuring the distance in the hallway of Haywood Early College. The data was later used in linear equations.

Many 18-year-olds will graduate high school this spring, and thanks to Haywood Early College, some 18-year-olds will graduate high school with an associate’s degree as well.

Haywood Early College, located on the campus of Haywood Community College, provides students with the skills so they can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associates degree.

The way six years of classes can be condensed into a five-year program is a structure that is heavy on class room work and includes very few extracurricular activities.

An associate degree is a type of undergraduate degree requiring a minimum of 60 semester credits/units. It is equivalent to the first two years at a university. HEC students must maintain a 2.0 GPA, and upon the program's completion, can transfer to a four-year university with college credits.

“We help assist students in getting their four-year degree,” said Doris Greene, HEC principal and dean of school. “They basically get two years of college here for free and then they transfer to the college of their choice with two years of credit behind them.”

Margret Stiles, an algebra and geometry teacher at HEC, said she has fallen in love with the program after teaching early college students for seven years. Stiles previously taught at Asheville High School and Waynesville Middle School.

“This is the best job ever,” Stiles said. “I love the early college concept, and I love the kids. You get to know them so incredibly well. They receive a high level of education that’s so personalized. And they truly love to be here — that’s the neatest thing.”

HEC has been working with students since it first opened in 2006.

“The Haywood Early College focuses on the individual student,” Greene said. “With the smaller class size, students are able to get more academic support. There’s no more than 200 students, so all the teachers and staff know each and every one of the students and know them well.”

Student support

Sophomore Dayla Beaudrot was singing praises about her experience at HEC. With all the support and encouragement she’s received, she’s already planning to attend NC State University after graduating.

“It’s helpful when there’s less children — it’s easier to learn when there’s not 32 students in class,” Beaudrot said. “The teachers have a lot of patience for you. Plus you get a lot more freedom — there’s not a teacher behind your back all the time.”

Chris Hill, a HEC sophomore, said the community feel at HEC had helped him overcome his shyness.

“I really love all the support I get from the staff,” Hill said, adding that he felt comfortable at HEC. “If I were at a public school now, I would still be making good grades but I would still be in my shell.”

Holly Warren is a freshman at HEC who already feels very at home on the campus. She is enthusiastic about receiving her associate’s degree and getting prepared for college.

“It’s like getting two years of free college,” Warren said. “Going here, you feel more confident in yourself. Because there are less people, nobody really judges you. And it gives us a college experience with the teachers. That way, when we do go to college, it won’t be as scary.”

Upperclassmen at HEC have also found that they feel more prepared for college.

“I’ve enjoyed the experience — overall it’s a great way to get a jumpstart on college,” said HEC junior Jaquan Mason. “It helps prepare you, and you get two years out of the way so you can spend less time and less money.”

Greg Harvey is also a junior at HEC, and he said he was enjoying his experience in early college, even though HEC doesn’t offer high school sports of any kind.

“There’s a lot more one-on-one time with the teacher, and there’s no sports or anything, but it all equals out,” Harvey said. “The experience has definitely opened me up to a lot more friends and with growing up. It’s helped me be more mature and responsible — it’s a great program.”

HEC junior Mateo De La Cruz said the early college environment kept him motivated to achieve his dream of one day attending a college in Philadelphia.

“It’s challenging but rewarding,” De La Cruz said. “You not only get a degree, but you get a diploma. (HEC) is more motivational — you push yourself more than you would at a regular high school.”

HEC senior Ashley Smith enjoys all the extra support she receives in class as well as the research tools the classes have access to such as the newest available calculators, kindle tablets and iPads, which are used for research.

“We’re actually in these classes with college teachers, and that’s what it will be like (in college)" Smith said. “When we get to a four-year college, we will already have done our own advising, so that will help us.”

Sharing knowledge

HEC uses a mentor program to help its freshmen become more comfortable with the college teachers and classes.

As upperclassmen, Smith, De La Cruz, Harvey and Mason all serve as mentors to younger students. Throughout the school year, mentors will help their mentees by encouraging them, offering moral support and guidance when academics become challenging.

“When I came in, we didn’t have the program and I felt like I was just thrown in — I didn’t know what to expect or know what to do,” Harvey said, adding that the mentor program had changed all that.

The mentor program also has helped all the students at HEC become like family, with students in every grade coexisting as friends.

“It helps fill the gap between seniors and freshman,” Smith said. “We’re teaching them the ropes, so it’s easier to become close like family.”

Students and parents interested in attending HEC are welcome to attend. The event will be held in building 400 on the HCC campus.

In order to be considered for HEC, students must complete an application. You can request an application from the middle school counselors or by contacting HEC. Applications for HEC will be accepted through May 1.

For more information, visit www.hec.haywood.k12.nc.us/ or call the school at 828-565-4000.