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Early College opens with promise of hard work, more fun


When the 2019-2020 school year officially began at Lenoir County Early College High School on Monday so began Diane Heath’s fourth year as principal there, a record for consistency in the relatively short history of a school going on 13 years.

Principal Diane Heath greets students as they come off a school bus Already she is looking forward to seeing the students she ushered in as freshmen her first year graduate next May with both high school diplomas and two-year degrees from Lenoir Community College – the model for accelerated achievement that gives Early College its name and its unique place among LCPS’s 17 schools.

Day One, however, was more about the present, about promulgating goals and laying the groundwork to build on Early College’s notable success, including the ‘A’ it earned in the state’s letter-grade accountability rating.

“This year we’ve raised the bar with all of our students,” Heath said Monday morning between the arrival of school buses she was greeting. “The goal is for no student to have below a grade of 80 on any of their high school core classes. The adults here are looking at how we can impact that positively. We’re going to be on it earlier if students are not performing at that level.”

Adhering to that standard as freshmen and sophomores will give students the GPA they need to access a full-blown college schedule as juniors and seniors. Success there advances Heath’s goal of having 100 percent of graduates leave Early College with both a diploma and a degree. The current high mark is 93 percent, set by the 56-member Class of 2019.

Heath spelled out her expectations at a kick-off assembly early Monday for freshmen and sophomores, who are in class on a half-day schedule until Aug. 15, when LCC resumes classes and Early College’s juniors and seniors return to campus.

“We are here to support you, to make sure you are the best student you can be,” the principal told them. “We have a goal for each and every one of you this year and I want you to make that your goal.”

Student Lena Cripe in class Incoming freshman Lena Cripe of Kinston, who finished middle school at Woodington just two months ago, showed up Monday with a goal of her own.

“I’m planning to complete the high school part and get a two-year associate degree in science and then get into medical school and graduate from medical school and be an Army medic,” she said.

Lena decided in early spring that Early College would be her best next step, even before Heath and others made a recruiting trip to Woodington. “I had an idea I wanted to come because I’d heard so much about it from my friends,” she said. “The thing that appealed to me is that in four or five years you can get a high school diploma and a college degree. I also like the class sizes. In smaller classes you can learn more.”

Lena and the other 51 members of her freshman class participated in a three-day orientation program last week called SCORR (Self-Control, Communication, Organization, Responsibility and Respect) that acquainted them with the campus and, more importantly, with each other.

Their first class Monday was Freshman Seminar, a course designed to help the ninth graders develop study habits and time management and social skills. It also sets freshmen up for their first college class, essentially an introduction to an academic environment where assignments are specific and deadlines are firm.

Because the work is so rigorous, an effort has been made this year to build more opportunities for fun into the school day. For the first time, Early College students can participate in intramural sports, participate in health and wellness activities and take advantage of LCC’s music and art resources. The number and variety of clubs have been expanded.

“There are lots of new things being added. There are fun things for you to become involved in and for us to participate in as a group,” Heath told students at the assembly. “So we’re looking forward to the year and having more fun – while still working hard. There’s no doubt about that.”

Photo captions:

(Top) Diane Heath, principal of Lenoir County Early College High School, greets sophomore Amr Albaadania as students arrive Monday for the first day of class.

(Bottom) Freshman Lena Cripe talks to a classmate before the beginning of her Freshman Seminar class Monday.