When Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill instating dual-credit options in all Nevada high schools, he recognized Churchill County School District Superintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon and Western Nevada College Dean of Students John Kinkella for pioneering the initiative.
“It wasn’t the college that started it,” Kinkella told the LVN in February. “I’d love to take credit for it, but it was really Dr. Sheldon and Dr. (Robert) Slabey (former Storey County superintendent).”
At the bill signing in May, Kinkella thanked Sheldon for bringing Jump Start college programs to Churchill County high-school students and continuing on to students across the state.
The program launched after a conversation between Sheldon and Kinkella about similar programs she worked with in her former state of Washington.
When Sheldon introduced the concept of college in the high school to Kinkella in 2013 — allowing Churchill County High School students in their junior and senior years to earn an associate degree while obtaining their high-school diploma at no cost to the students — the WNC Jump Start program was born.
Since 2014, the first year of the program in CCSD, 16 CCHS students have graduated with their associate degree from WNC and about 100 students have participated in the program in some way.
“This is a proud day for Churchill County School District as the Jump Start program began at Churchill County High School,” Sheldon said of the bill signing. “We hope Jump Start continues to expand so more students can earn their high-school diploma and associate degree in the same year.
“Not only does this save parents money, it allows students who want to go on to a university to start at a junior level and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in two years.”
The purpose of Senate Bill 19 is to shepherd high-school students into higher education and enhance workforce development in the state.
“Here, Western Nevada College has it dialed in and it’s frankly a model for the rest of the state,” Sandoval stated, adding the program needs to be franchised statewide to ensure all students have the chance to obtain “those great jobs.”
Through the three-year-old WNC Jump Start program, participating high schools, academies and home-school students can earn up to an associate degree before graduating with their high-school diploma.
“Western Nevada is ground zero for this New Nevada that we’re all so proud of and that we’re looking forward to,” Sandoval said in May. “This is one of those days that I’m so proud, so proud that I’m a Nevadan.”
Rural schools — giving many first-generation college students the opportunity to earn a degree at a lower or no cost — have embraced the program.
“That is what today is all about, to help remove some of the barriers for students,” said Sandoval, who also signed a STEM and STEAM-focused bill (Senate Bill 241) the same day. “We want to make sure, and I talk about it all the time, that every student, no matter who you are and where you come from, that there is a ladder for you and you can climb it.
“You all have your hopes, dreams and your aspirations with what you want to accomplish in life. But it’s up to all of us to make sure that those opportunities are there. You have to work for it, obviously, and work extremely hard to get there. But we have to make sure that those resources, the equipment and the instruction are available to all people. That’s what is important about (the Jump Start) bill.”
Over 400 high-school students, predominantly from Northern Nevada, participated in the program during the 2016-17 academic year, according to Kinkella.
“Western Nevada College and our partners in the Carson, Churchill, Douglas, Lyon and Storey county school districts, as well as Pyramid Lake High School, Nevada Virtual Academy and Oasis Academy, are very honored to have the Jump Start college program selected as the model for Senate Bill 19, which expands dual high school-college enrollment opportunities statewide,” Kinkella said.
Oasis Academy College Prep in Fallon produced the most Jump Start graduates this year with its first senior class; well over 30 Oasis students have two diplomas under the belt this summer. Dayton High School was third with 17 graduates this year after Nevada Virtual Academy. Fernley High School graduated 10.
Over 200 high-school students participated in the pilot program in 2014-15, WNC reported. Also, all of the original high schools are still involved including partnerships with Pioneer, Silver Stage, Smith Valley, Virginia City and Yerington as well as Aspire Academy. See the complete list of currently participating schools including Mineral County High School and Silver State Charter School at www.WNC.edu/Jump-Start.
The college program’s success has also been recognized outside the state; WNC’s Jump Start recently received national recognition.
“Jump Start was selected as one of four ACT National Exemplar programs, and we are very proud of this new way of working together,” Kinkella said.
During WNC’s 45th commencement ceremony also in May, six Northern Nevada high schools and two academies contributed to the largest Jump Start college graduating class in the program’s history.
“The governor has challenged higher education to double the number of degrees awarded by 2020,” Kinkella said. “Last year, 27 high-school students attained their associate of arts degree at the same time they graduated high school. This year, that number has grown to 89 high-school students attaining an associate of arts degree.
“Based on our experience, expanding this opportunity statewide may go a long way toward meeting the governor’s goal.”
Meanwhile, SB 241 is focused on recognizing high-school students who have earned STEM and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) college credit. Schools have also already been offering students in the region ways to earn Career and Technical Education (CTE) credit. This bill is also intended to generate workforce development for younger Nevadans.
“Preparing professionals and technicians for the contemporary workforce requires a strong background in STEM,” said WNC CTE Director Georgia White. “Encouraging high-school students to pursue the STEM or STEAM track provides those students with knowledge and critical-thinking skills applicable to all Career and Technical Education fields.
“Bringing a strong STEM framework to college courses allows the students to engage fully in computer information systems, advanced manufacturing and other high-demand, high-wage career paths as we build the New Nevada.”
Western Nevada College and Churchill County School District contributed to this story.