Kilgore College turned the focus of a new fundraising initiative toward its youngest students, raising more than $20,000 for scholarships.
The inaugural “Continuing the Dream Through Education” Martin Luther King, Jr. Dual Credit Scholarship Breakfast was established this year to help students enrolled in dual credit classes continue their education at Kilgore College.
Three high school seniors enrolled in dual credit classes spoke about the importance of dual credit to them and how it has prepared them for the next step.
“They prepare you for the fast, college pace that you may not get in a normal high school course. It was a bit of a shocker to go from high school straight into college courses. I was very lucky to have a teacher who helped with that transition, Mr. Johnson. He taught us that you have to manage your own time, so you learn that very quickly in dual credit courses that if you don’t manage your time and if you don’t work at their pace, you’re not going to make it,” Kilgore High School senior Mikaila Williams said.
Although there are high expectations, Leverett’s Chapel High School senior Ethan Robinson said, the instructors are “willing and eager” to help students however they can.
Robinson described it as a “safety net” as students transition from high school to college.
Taking college-level courses in high school allows students to learn these skills, such as time management and communication with their instructors before getting to college – where they would have to learn those same lessons at a much higher tuition cost, Williams echoed.
Not only are the dual credit classes affordable, but the 21 hours of dual credits she has so far helps save her money in the future.
“All these courses that I’ve taken, I don’t have to take at University of Dallas now,” Williams said. “That will save me money, that will help me graduate faster, and I’m really excited for that, guys.”
For Henderson High School senior Ivana Quintanilla, the dual credit courses helped her determine what she is interested in before choosing her career path in biomedical sciences.
Planning to attend Liberty University in Virginia, Quintanilla said she was warned her credits would not transfer because they are made for local universities and colleges. That is not the case, though, she found.
“Actually they do, because Kilgore College has done such a great job of making sure that they cover enough courses that many universities and colleges accept them,” she said. “It’s not just local… All in all, dual credit forces each student to work hard and put in his best effort to gain not only credit but scholarship opportunities and to get ahead of their class. The doors that open due to this program are many and they help students like me have the ability to gain a higher degree in education.”
Kilgore College President Brenda Kays told the donors seated in the Kilgore College Ballroom Friday economic forecasts indicate more than 60 percent of jobs in the future will require a postsecondary degree.
However, she said, “We have tracked our dual credit students through a statewide database, and we’ve learned that approximately 22 percent of the students who take dual credit courses while they’re still in high school, earning college credits never matriculate. Data indicates that they are not taking courses with KC, nor have they transferred to any other community college or university to continue their education. We know that this is truly a waste, a waste of potential.”
The money collected Friday’s will go into direct scholarships, Kays said, and the college will work directly with high school counselors in the area to identify students who have taken dual credit courses but may not otherwise be able to continue their education.
“We want to make sure they have the same advantages anybody else would have,” she said.
The thought of having scholarships to help dual credit students continue their education after high school excites KHS counselor Jennifer Hattaway. When Hattaway transitioned from the classroom into the counselor’s office, one of her assignments was to grow the dual credit program.
It has grown and, she said, it includes core and CTE (career and technology education) classes with welding dual credit students able to graduate with a high school diploma and a welding certificate.
“We want to help our students be prepared for whatever they want to do when they leave us,” she said. “It’s so important and to offer scholarships to these students… We do have students that may start the welding program their senior year, they may need help completing that. That is a wonderful thing. If you are helping and you are a donor here today, thank you so much because you really are changing people’s lives and you’re helping people and that’s great.”
KC Coordinator of Dual Credit Education Terry Booker taught his first dual credit history course in 1977 and the program has continued from there.
“I can tell you having an opportunity to work with Terry in my new position as the technical dual credit coordinator that, that bond that he had with those students from the very beginning sticks with him still today,” D’Wayne Shaw, technical dual credit coordinator, said. “So much so that he still believes that those 1700 dual credit students that came through Kilgore College last year were still made for him, so he’s been a champion for dual credit, like I said, from the very beginning.”
Shaw, who was filling in for Booker who was suffering from the same “crud” others in East Texas have, said dual credit was limited to students whose parents knew about college and understood the transition from high school to college courses. At the beginning, KC saw about 25 or 30 dual credit students per year.
That has increased into the thousands with a boost from superintendents who have helped push the programs and with advances in the Texas Legislature to encourage schools to offer dual credit and for students to enroll.
“As a result, the number of dual credit students throughout the state of Texas grew by leaps and bounds. It was no longer a secret. It was no longer just for children from educated families. It was for all of God’s children,” Shaw said. “We think we can probably get an ‘Amen’ from Dr. King on that. If they want to be doctors, lawyers, welders, automotive technicians, engineers, social scientists, nurses’ aides or just about anything you could think of, they could start at the high school and at Kilgore College.”
Shaw quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and critically. Intelligence plus character, that’s the goal of true education.”
He said that is the goal of the KC dual credit department, and they are focusing on identifying the 22 percent of students who are not continuing their college careers and encouraging them to enroll.
“We want to help close that gap,” he said. “You being here today and being a part of this fundraiser, you’re now a part of that team to help us do that. Together, we can help them continue to dream.”