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Wright Tech Students Earning College Credits While Still In High School

Catherine Brackett leads a "College Forum" class at Wright Technical High School. The Grade 9 students earn a free NCC credit once they complete it successfully. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
Jorge Sanchez listens attentively during the College Forum class at Wright Technical High School. Students in the class receive one NCC credit for free if they successfully pass the class. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Students at a revived technical high school in Stamford are not only working toward their high school diplomas and trade certificates, they are also starting to pick up college credits for free.

J.M. Wright Technical High School and Norwalk Community College have partnered to create the College Forum course for ninth-graders students at the technical high school that serves students from Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton.

For Jorge Sanchez, it's one step on the way to his goal of studying architecture. In the College Forum course, he and his fellow students are learning that their success is tied up with a belief and self confidence in themselves.

"What really stops us is ourselves. We can't make a change without making a change in ourselves," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the course gives him a jump start on college while saving him money. The students who applied for and were accepted in the course will receive one NCC credit for successfully completed it. Currently, the cost for one credit is $155.

The high school, which reopened last fall after being closed for several years, currently has only ninth-graders. But it will add another crop of new Grade 9 students for the upcoming school year.

The students may earn more college credits in the years to come, said two senior school officials.

Laura Varrone, director of school counselling and admissions, and assistant principal Susan Foss said the school wants to add more college level courses.

As part of the program, the students are matriculated into NCC and can use the credit or credits they earn at other community colleges in the state.

The College Forum course focuses on topics that can help students make the best use of their time, set goals and improve critical thinking and self-assessment. The course runs for eight weeks in the spring.

Catherine Brackett, an NCC instructor, leads the class and said her role is to prepare students for what to expect in college.

"I feel like my job is to sort of show them what professors are thinking," she said.

They focus on time management and self assertion to prepare themselves for the different atmosphere of a college classroom, she said.

Students had to complete an NCC application, prepare a college essay, and have an 85 percent academic average to be accepted in this course.

"It's pretty rigorous qualifications that they had to meet," Foss said.

Students who graduate from Wright Tech earn a high school diploma and can also earn a trade certificate plus take free college courses that could save them money and help them graduate from college sooner, Varrone said.

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