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LNHS Collegiate Academy Featured in Orlando Sentinel

Lake Nona High’s Collegiate Academy was featured in the Orlando Sentinel.  Here’s a bit of the story.

Record number of high-school students graduating with college credits

Some students earn enough credits for early associate’s degrees

By Lauren Roth, Orlando Sentinel

May 30, 2012

As Daniel Pedrero signed classmates’ yearbooks at the Senior Day awards ceremony, he had two milestones to celebrate. Not only was he graduating from Freedom High School in Orange County, he also had completed an associate’s degree at Valencia College.

Pedrero, 18, is one of a growing number of Florida students taking advantage of dual enrollment, a state-endorsed way for students to take courses toward a college degree while still in secondary school.

“It was probably the best decision I’ve made in high school,” he said. “It’s given me the opportunity to get so ahead, and at no cost.”

As at least 23,000 students around Central Florida mark the end of their high school careers at graduation ceremonies this month, more of them are leaving with college classes under their belts.

The number of Florida students participating in the tuition-free program has grown from about 29,000 two years ago to more than 42,000 this year.

In Central Florida, 4,002 students took dual enrollment courses at area colleges this year. This spring, several dozen high school seniors graduated from Valencia with an associate’s degree, said Keith Houck, vice president for operations and finance at the college.

Pedrero, who plans to major in entrepreneurship at the University of Miami, said he still enjoyed the high school life while attending classes such as political science and calculus at Valencia. “There are some activities I missed, but I went to all of the football games and most of the pep rallies,” he said.

Programs like the Collegiate Academy at Lake Nona High School are helping push more students to take college courses early. Four hundred students at the Orange County school, up from 33 a year ago, are on a track that will have them taking regular college courses by their junior year, and preparatory courses beginning as freshmen.

This year’s Lake Nona valedictorian, Kalene Badree, 18, will go to University of Florida this fall with junior standing. She did so well in her Valencia courses that she’s been tutoring older college students in subjects such as calculus, sociology and economics.

In Osceola County, 511 students took a college course this year, and seniors have racked up 3,856 college credits.

As lucrative as the dual enrollment arrangement is for students, who can save thousands on tuition, it makes less sense for the colleges. Dual enrollment costs Valencia $4 million a year, said president Sanford Shugart. That’s because the state does not cover high school students’ tuition costs.

Students with a grade point average of 3.0 or above, with no discipline problems and who can pass college entrance exams are eligible.

But it’s not for everyone. Houck said students must be committed to going to college and Badree said it takes mental and emotional preparation.

And some top students said it doesn’t make sense for those who plan to attend elite schools out of state.

Brian Ventura, a Freedom High School student who was accepted to Harvard, Yale and Princeton, among other schools, said admissions counselors told him they prefer to see Advanced Placement credits, which have the same standards nationwide, on a student’s transcript. Skipping dual-enrollment also meant that Brian, a clarinet player and tenor, has been able to participate in band and sing in multiple choirs at Freedom.

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