ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Some high school freshmen in Ascension Parish are getting a head start on college through a program that allows them to take classes at River Parishes Community College while they earn high school and college credits.
They qualified for a unique opportunity called the Early College Program. It allows students to dive into the college curriculum sooner.
East Ascension High School freshman, Rhett Wilson, said he hopes the program will help him land his dream job without going into debt.
"I'd like to be a neurosurgeon, and I find it important to get a head start because life's expensive and college is too," Wilson said.
His classmate, Kyra Vendible, wants to be a Psychologist. She said she signed up for the advanced courses because she prefers working in smaller groups.
"I really have trouble with math. I've been having trouble with math all my life, and even the simplest things are completely difficult. My algebra teacher, you can ask him anything one on one," Vendible said.
Vendible said she has already noticed a difference.
"I have an A, and I had a B last year," Vendible said.
Program Administrator, Julian Surla, said it works because the students all have one thing in common.
"They just want to focus on academics," Surla said.
Students who successfully complete the four-year curriculum get a high school diploma and an Associate's Degree Humanities. Surla said the benefits pay off long after they leave the RPCC campus.
"They can go to a university and spend two of the four years for TOPS getting their bachelors and the other two years getting their master's degree and have the possibility of getting all three degrees paid for by either TOPS or the Ascension Parish School District," Surla said.
"This will probably cut $10,000 off of my student loan debt," Wilson said.
Surla said Early College is challenging but he and his staff believe it is catching on and will ultimately pay off.
There are currently 83 students enrolled in the early college program, 59 are freshman.