LAFAYETTE, La. — "The first week was really intimidating and like, everyone is freaking out but you really get into the swing of things, and like, it becomes normal," says Rhya-Grace Daunoy, a freshman at the Early College Academy. In less than two years she will be a full time college student while in high school.
Junior student Cade Roland explains, "When you hit your junior and senior year, you have a lot more classes to deal with, and you're making your own schedule. You're like, practically a college student."
About 300 students from throughout Lafayette Parish attend ECA. About 90 to 95 percent of those students graduate with not only a high school diploma, but also an associates degree.
"First of all, think of the economics of that. Community colleges are far less expensive than four year institutions, so if you can knock out the first two years at a community college and then transfer, you've saved a significant amount of money," says Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan. Brogan is visiting schools across the country that are rethinking education and offering unique learning opportunities to meet students' needs.
While on campus at ECA, Brogan learned more about the community college's partnership with the Lafayette Parish School System, which gives students the opportunity to earn college credits while in school. Opportunities like this one provide students the freedom to earn a college degree more quickly and often with less debt. He insists all school systems need to adapt to the constantly changing world, and "organize around the students instead of as we have in the past 100 years, demand that the students organize around us."
Students in the program say that they are thriving.
"I've never felt challenged enough here, it's everyday I face a new challenge," explained Claire Posey, a sophomore at ECA. "I'm learning and I'm pushed by my teachers and even my peers to be the best version of myself that I can be and to be the best student I can be."