Some students at Oakland Mills High School will soon have the opportunity to earn up to 30 college credits before they graduate high school.
The Oakland Mills administration is in the process of recruiting students for its Early College Program that will begin next school year.
The program will enable students with an interest in science and math to begin taking above-grade-level courses in eighth grade before joining a cohort of students in their focus area in ninth grade.
Beginning in the 11th grade, students can take college classes to be offered at Oakland Mills and in 12th grade, students can enroll in courses at Howard Community College with transportation provided to and from campuses.
Once the student graduates from Oakland Mills, their college credits can transfer to HCC — where they'll only need one further year to earn an associate's degree — or to any four-year college or university, according to Oakland Mills Principal Karim Shortridge.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for students to be prepared for the rigors of college," he said.
While some students have dually enrolled at Howard Community College in the past, last year was the first year the school system introduced an early college program, according to Caroline Walker, director of elementary curricular programs.
Through the Maryland Early College Innovation fund grant with the Maryland State Department of Education, the school system was able to launch a cohort of 28 students studying network security at the Applications and Research Lab (ARL) and Howard Community College.
"Based on what we learned while creating this first cohort, we wanted to create pathways that are less specific and to open up the opportunity to students who may not yet have a specific career goal in mind," Walker said in an email.
When funding was re-opened for a new early college opportunity, the school system applied for a STEM-oriented program of study intended to appeal to a larger number of students.
"The program gives students a great head start in earning the college credits, degrees and other credentials that can lead to many lucrative careers, and saves significantly on college costs," Walker said.
Oakland Mills is currently in "planning stages" as to which classes students will take as freshmen and sophomores to prepare them for their junior- and senior-year classes, according to Shortridge.
"Next year really is where we hit the ground running with the program," he said.
The hope is for 25 to 30 students to graduate with 30 college credits in this first cohort, Shortridge said.
Shortridge has sent out about 200 letters to middle and high school families inviting them to one of the information sessions.
"My hope is that as many kids as possible take advantage of this," he said. "It would really give them a leg up in terms of being college and career ready."