Meridian students benefit from college partnership

MOUNDS — Some Pulaski County high school students have begun their senior year at high school at the same time they started their freshman year at Shawnee Community College.

They’ve taken part in a unique dual-enrollment program that will help prepare them for careers on a fast-track in a program called Fast Start.

Alyzon Agbayani has her future pretty well mapped out.

“I would like to become an R.N. in Pediatrics.”

And she’ll graduate ahead of her peers thanks to a partnership between Meridian High School and Shawnee Community College.

The Fast Start program puts seniors like Agbayani and others in college classes.

“I’m going for Criminal Justice so one year of college would be good for me”, said Justin Casper.

When they graduate, they’ll already have one year of college under their belt.

Meridian carefully chooses students for the program and closely monitors their progress.

“These students have to meet a certain criteria to see if they’re ready to take on a full college credit as seniors in high school,” explained principal Tony Rinella.

And many of the students say they have little or no problem carrying the extra college load as they wrap up their last year of high school.

“We only go to class three days a week, so you’ve got plenty of time to do your homework,” said T.J. Nichols.

The school pays for tuition and books through a federal program, so the students get their start in college for free.

It made a huge difference to Alyzon, because she says it takes years of study to become a nurse, and the sooner she gets started, the sooner she can start helping people who need medical attention.

“I was trying to find something where I can go ahead and get a head start and through this program came along, it was like really like something that I was looking forward to so it was like a great opportunity.”

Fast Start has become so popular that about half of Meridian seniors take part in the program, with nearly two dozen juniors showing interest in next year.

Meridian students benefit from college partnership

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