Churchill County High School ‘Jump Start’ builds momentum
Churchill County High School’s Jump Start program through Western Nevada College Fallon is preparing for its fourth year running as well as heading into another exciting graduation season.
Nearly a dozen students are on track to receive their associate degree a few days prior to their high school diploma. In 2016, eight students graduated with this combination having started the program as juniors. CCHS covers the full tuition, lab fees and loaned textbooks.
“Our success rate has been exceptional,” said CCHS Principal Kevin Lords.
Juniors and seniors are encouraged to enroll in the program if they have completed Algebra 2 with a C grade or higher and then pass the Accuplacer essay test. (The next WNC testing session will take place March 30.) If the Accuplacer math section is not passed, students may still participate but need to complete Math 96 taught at CCHS. If students complete 15 college credit hours per semester, they can earn their associate.
Launched at CCHS in 2014, the school went on to offer an on-site instructor for courses in the program last year — instead of students solely going to the WNC Fallon campus for their classes.
Lords said this addition helps students remain feeling connected to the high school and able to experience more of its social aspects including high school campus activities such as homecoming dress-up days.
Teacher Monica Fairbanks, who has a Master of Arts in English, works at CCHS and also part-time at WNC. Lords said with her being the on-site instructor, she offers students the presence of a college professor and collegiate classroom. Lords said Superintendent Dr. Sandra Sheldon had this vision early on when the idea was discussed with John Kinkella, WNC dean of Student Services.
The Jump Start curriculum includes English, history, math and an educational psychology course covering study skills and college success strategies. There is also as an initial compressed communication course to aid program student success. Plus first-year Jump Start enrollees are required to attend a weekly supplemental instruction session with the assigned college teacher assistant.
“(Oral communication) is really a good confidence-booster,” Kinkella said. “They realize, I can stand up in front of the class and not die. But it also gives them such a wonderful team experience.”
Kinkella shared how one student in another county suffered from severe anxiety, and her class gave her a standing ovation at the end of her presentation.
Program cohort coaches like Jeanie Workman are another constant presence for participating schools — to be a mentor and provide resources, pointing students in the right direction and moving them toward academic independence. Workman added coaches also help shy students know how to approach their professors and are there to keep another eye on things, monitoring for any falling behind and helping students recover.
WNC reported CCHS’ fall semester had 21 students enrolled in the program and 120 of the course grades were either As, Bs or Cs. Thus 94.4 percent of the time, students were producing a C or higher in their classes; 75.5 percent of student grades were As or Bs.
Other ways CCHS is fostering student achievement include honors, Advanced Placement as well as Career and Technical Education courses. Tutoring is also available if students need it.
Pupils throughout WNC’s 14 Jump Start programs are succeeding too. Some sites with low enrollment bus determined learners, including those home schooled, to the nearest campus.
“It wasn’t the college that started it,” Kinkella said. “I’d love to take credit for it but it was really Dr. Sheldon and Dr. (Robert) Slabey (former Storey County superintendent).”
Kinkella said the superintendents wanted a dual-enrollment program, based on their previous experiences; a handful of schools became involved and the opportunity has continued to spread.
“The overwhelming contribution was the school districts,” he said of designing programs and schools working together. “My job was to listen and do what they wanted, which is put together a program — which is the cohort model where students take classes together with a coach.”
Kinkella explained working with CCHS involved offering the program to juniors, not just seniors.
“We need to catch them when they’re ready, not when we’re ready,” he said was Sheldon’s point, adding after the sophomore writing course students are freshly prepared for a college class. “What we’re looking for is do they have the maturity for this?”
Kinkella said in his experience many students do, thinking roughly 10 percent. He described what it’s like when students graduate from WNC on a Monday and CCHS Friday.
“It’s a pretty overwhelming experience for parents,” he said, emphasizing “(the students) are killing it when they go to university.”
Kinkella said Jump Start students are finding colleges can’t throw anything at them they can’t handle. He said some students are achieving their master’s in a timeframe normally reserved for a bachelor’s degree, or they’re entering technical fields straight out of high school.
Sheldon highlighted that Jump Start students’ average grades tend to be far higher than the average population of the university.
“That’s our goal with Jump Start; we don’t want students to struggle,” Lords said. “We want them ready to go.”