Two paths, same destination

There is more than one way for Riverside students to get ahead in college even before graduating high school.

Many high schoolers know about Advanced Placement (AP) courses. They’ve been around since the 1950s and were the only way for students to earn college credits.  Riverside offers 20 different AP classes in a variety of fields, including arts and languages as well as the core four subjects.

But those aren’t the only early college opportunities. Durham Technical Community College’s dual enrollment program, Career and College Promise (CCP), offers multiple pathways to suit the needs of different students.

Out of the three CCP pathways, the College Transfer (CT) pathway is the program for high school students who plan on going to a four-year college. Students who complete this pathway will receive an associate’s degree in addition to their high school diploma.

“I’m basically going to get two years of college over with for only like a couple hundred dollars,” said Riverside Senior Ella Whithaus. She will earn an Associate’s in Arts degree after finishing her courses next summer.

One reason Whithaus pursued Durham Tech’s CT pathway was the scheduling flexibility and variety of courses available. She was interested in pursuing sociology but it wasn’t offered through Riverside.

Durham Tech courses offer an opportunity for high-schoolers to explore career options, according to Senior Brianna Aguilar-Orozco. 

“If you have this opportunity to take Durham Tech classes, you should take advantage of it as something that you want to do in college,” said Aguilar-Orozco, who plans on pursuing a business degree.

Durham Tech Liaison, Tevin Jones. Photo by Elena Paces-Wiles

Tevin Jones is Riverside’s Durham Tech liaison. He informs students about Durham Tech opportunities both during and after high school. 

CCP students may take courses in order to “get themselves familiarized with how college works, how instructors can be, [and] how that set up works,” Jones said. All participants can get exposure to college professors and schedules, and those who opt to take classes in person can experience life on a college campus.

After finishing the associate’s degree, students can transfer to any college in the University of North Carolina system. Some private and out of state institutions also accept the course credits students earn at Durham Tech, said Jones.

CCP accepts any junior or senior who has either a 2.8 unweighted GPA or required state-approved assessment score. SAT, PSAT, ACT, and Pre-ACT scores are all accepted, as well as  a few others. If a student has neither a 2.8 unweighted GPA nor the required test score, they can take Durham Tech’s placement exam.

“I’m looking for anybody who’s motivated,” Jones said. “Anybody who is willing to challenge themselves. So if that’s the students who are taking the more challenging courses, yeah, that can work. But if it’s also the people who maybe haven’t taken any honors courses, or haven’t taken any of the AP courses they are still welcome to do it, too.”

“It’s not hard, as long as you actually have the effort and will to keep going,” said Aguilar-Orozco.

Despite CCP’s growing popularity, Riverside’s AP classes are still the right option for some students. These courses allow advanced high-schoolers to complete college level work. They revolve around critical thinking skills, writing strategy, and a complex understanding of the material, according to AP Latin teacher, Melissa Lido. 

“[It offers students the opportunity to] ask questions and have discussions like you might not have in just a regular class or even in an honors class,” Lido said. 

Anyone who passes the AP exam, which are nationally standardized tests, has the option to earn credit and place out of required college classes. Specific requirements vary between colleges and some prestigious colleges don’t accept AP credits at all.

“I like to think of it as, as close to a college course as you can get but still in a high school building,” said AP Biology teacher Mika Twietmeyer. 

Students in Mika Twietmeyer’s AP Biology class complete a lab. Photo by Elena Paces-Wiles

Unlike in Durham Tech’s CT pathway, students will not finish the course with a degree. This may be the right option for those who are unsure what they want to pursue after high school or if their desired college does not accept credits from Durham Tech.

AP classes are more challenging than the ones available through Durham Tech, according to Whithaus. But teachers are there to support students who are struggling with advanced classes. 

“What I think an AP class can offer is a little bit more of that bridge,” Twietmeyer said. She explained that AP courses have more direct teacher involvement than the CCP program.

Aguilar-Orozco, who has also taken AP classes at Riverside, agrees. She said Durham Tech teachers don’t provide as much one-on-one support.

“[Students] have to initiate things,” Aguilar-Orozco said. “No one’s gonna reach out to you.” 

Riverside’s AP department is constantly trying to encourage all sorts of students to take advanced classes. 

“I would recommend it to anybody that’s willing to try something new,” said Twietmeyer.

Lido would recommend AP courses for anyone who is self motivated, and willing to put in the work.

“[They’re not for] somebody who just wants to do it because they get more weight on their GPA,” she said.

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