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BRIGHT FUTURES — Bob Hope School students get head start with early college program

This year, Bob Hope School students get a chance to join the Early College Program by teaming up with Lamar State College Port Arthur. The school offered dual credit but received early college designation over the summer.

“The goal is for those students to graduate with 42 (college) hours, if not an associates degree,” Bob Hope Campus Director Jesus Acosta said. 

The high school hired teachers with masters degrees to teach the college courses at the high school’s campus.

Professor Shanelle Austin talks to her learning frameworks class Monday morning at Bob Hope School. (Chris Moore/The News)

“We also have some other professors come in and provide courses on our campus,” Acosta said. “As it develops, our students will travel to Lamar State College to take courses there.”

Students can take classes such as English 1301 and 1302, British Literature, U.S. History, Fine Arts and Learning Frameworks among others.

“As we go, we are building the different courses that they need that will eventually get them to an associate’s degree,” Acosta said.

As opposed to the Dual Credit Program, the Early College Program allows students to take college classes as early as ninth grade.

“At the eighth-grade level, we start to prepare them for the (Texas Success Initiative Assessment),” Acosta said. “We put them through four camps throughout the year, and the goal is they take the TSI in the summer. After they take that, it is kind of wide open to take any courses they want. We also do a summer bridge that we did at Lamar State. They provided assistance and success coaches that prepare students for the rigors of what to expect at the college level.”

Acosta said the economic benefits alone are worth the courses. Students in the programs have the opportunity to take multiple years of college courses for free.

“Last year, we had quite a few graduates with more than 30 hours,” he said. “That is two years of college for free. Whether they go to Lamar State or a university, they are ahead of the game. Instead of spending four years at the university, they have two years out of the way. They also show up to the universities already prepared, because they have gone through the rigorous college courses. It is not their first time taking a college course. They have already had exposure. We pay for everything. We pay for the books and all. The parents don’t have to pay for anything.”

The average cost of a year of college in Texas is approximately $9,000.

Hilda Billups, director of dual enrollment at Lamar State, said the program benefits schools and the students.

“Bob Hope really wants every student to participate in dual credit. That’s their mission,” she said. “It comes from that place of how do we give all of our students the opportunity to participate in dual credit in their high school years. By starting students in ninth grade, we have a little bit more control and ability to make it happen for as many students as we can.

“Competitive students want challenges. They want to have the most rigorous high school pathway possible. If we can show students that dual credit is the most rigorous pathway for those transfer courses, then students are going to take those classes.”