High School + STLCC Classes = Achievement, Part Two
A Special Series Presented by St. Louis Community College
St. Louis Community College provides several opportunities for area high school students to earn college credit before they graduate. In some cases, students can complete both their high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time. STLCC is proud to share the voices of students in these programs. This is the second installment in our four-part series exploring how young STLCC students benefit from an early college experience.
Meet Arlen Smart, Ritenour High School
St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley
His last name is “smart” for a reason.
Arlen Smart will graduate with a high school diploma from Ritenour High School in the Ritenour School District with approximately 25 college credits from St. Louis Community College in May 2022.
He is a recipient of STLCC’s Jump Start to College scholarship that covers the expense of dual credit classes. Dual credit courses are taught by high school teachers who meet STLCC’s faculty requirements. The coursework counts as both high school and college credit. More than 600 students from various school districts benefited from the scholarship in fall 2021.
When high school students sign up for dual credit classes at STLCC, they are automatically checked for Jump Start to College scholarship eligibility. If they meet the criteria, they don’t even have to apply for the award.
“I was very surprised to learn I received the Jump Start to College scholarship for STLCC," Smart said.
“I knew I had a good chance of being awarded the scholarship because of my determination to succeed and my good grades through high school. Because I am also taking dual enrollment classes that are covered by my school district, my STLCC classes are fully funded."
Dual enrollment classes are taught by STLCC faculty on campus, online or at a high school that offers high school students college credit.
Smart hopes to take the knowledge and credits he earned this semester in English 101: College Composition and Mathematics 160: Precalculus Algebra — along with other STLCC credits — and apply them toward a bachelor’s degree in business with an emphasis in health care management at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
He applied to SIUE and said one of the main reasons is because his college credits will transfer.
His mother, Yolanda Smart, is proud he earned the Jump Start to College scholarship and stretched himself academically.
Yet, she said the most difficult part of the experience for him was the fear of a bad grade appearing on his college transcript.
“It is funny thinking about how nervous Arlen was in the beginning,” she said. “And now he thinks he knows everything about it and about college.”
Overall, she believes his choice to take high school and college coursework simultaneously was wise.
"Taking dual enrollment classes has been very rewarding, because it introduced him to the college environment early,” she said. “Being in high school while taking college courses makes him feel like he's ahead of his peers. His study habits have improved. He has gained more time-management skills and built structure.”
Smart offers a bit of advice about taking college classes.
“I would tell others considering taking dual enrollment classes to make sure that they don't procrastinate when something is done for a college class. I would also say turn in work on time because unlike high school, most teachers won't take late work. Lastly, make sure you read the syllabus for every class.”
Ellen Kim, Smart’s precalculus algebra instructor, has taught STLCC dual credit classes for two years. She teaches a semester of college-credit work over a year. Some of her students, who only have to take one math course in college, finish the math requirement through the dual credit class.
Kim appreciates that her students are, “Graduating with college credits already that were free or very low cost and being able to take the courses in a high school setting, which is usually smaller than the college setting.”
“I'm on my way to graduation,” Smart said. “Yay class of 2022!”
Interested in Taking College Courses While Still in High School?
Through dual credit, dual enrollment, Early College, Jump Start to College, and Make It Count, high school students have options to start their college education in ways that are cost-effective.