LUMBERTON — Robeson County’s Early College High School has been named as one of the best in the country.
The school, which offers select students an opportunity to earn both their high school diploma and associate’s degree in five years, was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its high level of student academic performance. It was one of only nine schools in North Carolina, and 269 schools nationwide, to earn the Blue Ribbon designation this year.
According to the U.S.. Department of Education’s web page, the Blue Ribbon Program sets a “standard of excellence for all schools striving for the highest level of achievement. It also says that the program honors those schools where students attain and maintain high academic goals, including those that beat the odds.
Almost 7,000 schools across the country have received the Blue Ribbon designation since it was established in 1982.
Robeson County’s Early College High School, located on the campus of Robeson Community College, operates as a partnership with the college. Students take their required high school courses and then participate in college classes to earn credits that can be transferred later to a four-year college or university.
“This helps the kids make the transfer from high school to college easier,” said Sheila Gasque, who is in her second year as the school’s principal. She said that the school is now in its eighth year of existence.
Students have to meet certain eligibility requirements to be accepted into the school, which Gasque said currently has about 200 students. This year, about 165 students from across the county applied for the 45 to 50 openings available each year. Only 52 of the applicants were accepted.
Johnny Hunt, superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, called the Blue Ribbon designation for the Early College High School a “great honor.”
“This is a big honor for the (school) system, county and state,” he said. “I think this is a very deserving school.”
Hunt said that to his knowledge this is the first time that any school in Robeson County has received the Blue Ribbon designation.
Hunt said that the Early College High School was originally designed to serve first-generation college students.
“This was geared to help those students get their two-year degrees,” he said. “Now some of the students there are attending the school to just get their community college degree while others are planning to move onto a four-year university.”
According to Gasque, plans are under way to hold a celebration on the RCC campus to recognize the achievement. Representatives of the school, including its principal, will travel to Washington, D.C., in November to officially receive the award from federal school officials.
Several students at the school told The Robesonian that the Early College High School is like family.
“Here we know most everyone by name,” said Alia Warsco, a 10th-grade student who said she hopes to eventually pursue a career in medicine.
The students all said that the experience they are receiving at the school is setting the stage for them to move easily into a university environment. They said they have learned valuable lessons at the school such as the proper way to study and the importance of being responsible for their actions in regards to their academic endeavors.
“We have wonderful teachers, and the small classes are great,” said Gabriela Hernandez, a 13th-grade student who says she hopes to become a physical therapist or find a job in the area of forensics.
“I’ve had friends at other high schools ask me why I want to attend the Early College High School,” said Hernandez. “I always ask them, ‘Why not?’”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.