By Arda Johnson
Pensacola State College’s new Charter Academy launched Aug. 8, allowing high school students to embrace PSC’s motto: “Go here, get there.” Through the academy, students are given a head start by working towards completing their high school credits while also earning an associate’s degree before or nearly after graduating with their high school diploma.
Although some similarities exist between dual enrollment and the Charter Academy, the difference is environmental. The Charter Academy requires students to take five college classes at PSC’s Warrington campus Mondays through Thursdays; whereas, the maximum load for dual enrolled students is four classes.
While only available for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, 48 students are enrolled in the academy. With 17 seniors and 31 juniors, PSC Charter Academy principal Dr. Karen McCabe said, “The juniors will roll right into senior status unless they say, ‘I don’t want to come back.’ These students will absolutely finish their A.A. However, some of the seniors who enrolled will have a few credits they will need to finish up.”
17 year old Sebastian Berry was the first one to be registered with the Charter Academy as a senior in high school. After graduating, he plans on finishing up his current degree in order to pursue a PA degree at FSU. For high school students interested in joining the Charter Academy, visit PSC’s website and click on Charter Academy.
McCabe mentioned the reason for starting the academy in the first place was due to the “navy commander having trouble with folks wanting to come here for their duty station. Part of that was because a lot of the high schools weren’t graded very well in the Pensacola area.”
“Every day we’re thinking, ‘How can we raise the bar and offer something different so that students aren’t forced to go to the poorly graded high schools in our area,’” Mccabe said. In fact, some of those within the academy live out in “Gulf Breeze and Navarre and travel all the way over here to go to school.”
17 year old Francesca Boyland is one of those students. She mentions the drive from Santa Rosa county to PSC’s Warrington campus is worth it and even makes some money by carpooling her friends.
Along with Boyland, several Charter Academy students love the atmosphere. Out of the 48 enrolled, “The maximum number of people who can join the Charter Academy are 75 per grade level, yet there are only 45 people in total,” and they all agree that “it’s a privilege to be here.”
Here also includes a separate common room exclusively for Charter Academy students. They said they like to “do a lot of artwork, quizzes, and play music.”
All of them agree that “the only thing that’s different [between high school and the Charter Academy] is the amount of homework, depending on what classes you take. If you don’t study, you fail; if you do study, you pass. With high school, all you had to do were the assignments. If you fail the test, that’s no big deal; they always crank out a hundred assignments on you so that you don’t fail.”
McCabe points out that “when they come here, there are smaller class sizes, and they’ll have all the resources that other PSC students have. Students become more one-on-one with their instructors and staff.
“I didn’t even know who my principal was at my old high school,” said 16 year old Charter Academy student Porter Rankins. Also, “If I was in a normal high school, [Advanced Placement] classes are probably what I’d be doing. But with AP classes, you have to take the test in order to get the credit. Here, all you need is a C, and I like these classes better than highschool classes.”
McCabe said, “There are still some students who don’t know what career to pursue, but I think that’s the beauty of doing the A.A. It lets you get your feet wet in a bunch of different classes.”
McCabe said, “The other thing is that these students are going to end up getting Bright Futures. So after finishing your A.A, you can go and use your Bright Futures for the other two years of your Bachelor’s program. The new thing is that you can use Bright Futures then if you hadn’t used it for the full 4 years and you can also use it for the semester in graduate school. It saves you more money.”
McCabe said, “I would say the Charter Academy students have definitely inspired me. We have a great group of students; they are kind, funny, artistic, intelligent, and creative. They inspire me to work diligently to provide the best learning environment for them. Every student deserves that.”
It took a lot of work getting the academy up and running. McCabe said, “This was all brand-new, starting a school from scratch. They never had one. The application was written, and Dr. Kelley was a big part of putting that together and having that being approved by the department of ED [since] we also fall under Escambia’s umbrella.”
McCabe said, “A lot of what I do involves scheduling, working with students, planning study sessions, and making sure they have everything they need to graduate. I want to make sure they get all their credits like P.E. out of the way and make sure all of them have their testing completed, including their end of course assessments, ACTs & SATs, and getting them prepped to go on for a bachelorette program.
The students agree that the Charter Academy is one of the “best things ever,” and they recommend high schoolers to take advantage of the Charter Academy’s many opportunities.