By Brian Kelahan, College and Career Teacher
Common Ground’s population of “Dualists” is growing, representing more than 15% of the student population! Of course, a “dualist” is not a misspelling of a different word that might suggest we have gone in a different direction in terms of resolving disputes. No, a “dualist” is the term that Brian Kelahan, Manager of Post High School Planning, uses to describe students who are “dual enrolled” in courses in one of our local colleges (Yale University, Southern Connecticut State University, Gateway Community College, University of New Haven, Paier College of Art) in which they receive both college and high school credit. Currently, there are 33 CG students enrolled in courses as varied as Theatre Arts, Intro to Sociology, The Art of Persuasion and Women’s Health. Students at Common Ground are finding many ways to benefit from this program, and the school is committed to finding pathways to support as many students as possible in taking advantage of this opportunity.
The Dual Enrollment Program at Common Ground serves many purposes. As a small school, it is difficult to offer the range of courses that a larger high school might be able to provide. Common Ground leverages the generosity of our local colleges, where high school students may take courses for free, to offer upper level courses or electives we might not be able to provide. We have many students who have completed successfully higher level math classes (Pre-Calc, Calculus 1, 2 & 3, Differential Equations). Abby Kirk ‘19, who has completed three courses through Yale, and will go on to UCONN’s Actuarial Science program, says, “I don’t think I would be as well-prepared for my college major if I had not been able to take these courses at Yale. I feel like I’ve had a head start and will be more confident.” Last year’s graduate, Tupac Shureem, entered Clarkson University with a full year of college courses completed, making it possible to graduate from college in 3, rather than 4 years.
The Dual Enrollment program extends a variety of other benefits to our students. There is ample research that students coming from underserved populations experience “imposter syndrome” when they enter college, leading to lower levels of success. Recent research shows that students who complete Dual Enrollment courses have lower remediation needs and higher enrollment and completion rates than either students taking AP courses, or students taking no college courses. Mr. Kelahan confirms that CG students will benefit in terms of persistence and confidence because they will have tasted that success as Common Ground students. Common Ground junior, Brandi Ocasio ‘20, who is taking a General Botany course at Southern CT STate Univ, says, “I feel like this course has been empowering for me and a real confidence booster. I think I will be better prepared and more confident about college.” For the first time this year, 20 CG students are taking a SCSU Theatre Arts course taught here at CG for college credit. Travis Martin ‘19, who will be going to Trinity College (Hartford, CT) in the Fall, believes taking this course will make him more willing to explore other humanities courses in college.
Because the Dual Enrollment program is meant to support that transition to college, Common Ground supports our Dualists as they enter their first college courses. Mr. Kelahan checks in with them regularly to monitor progress and offer advice on how college courses may differ in terms of expectations and assignments. Although the college courses can be very demanding for a high school student, sophomore students Darlenne Cazarin (taking a Geology course at SCSU) and Zachary Porter (Envir Studies 101 at SCSU) indicate that the college courses have forced them to work harder and more efficiently with their high school courses.
As Common Ground moves forward with its Flexible Pathways program, looking to support as many students as possible in finding the path that helps them unlock their own passions and understandings about environmental and racial justice, we look to our Dual Enrollment program to continue to grow to as many students as possible.
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