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Lancer Academy bringing in-person college classes to KHS

When Kinston High School opens its campus to students for the 2021-2022 school year on Monday, it will open the door to a college within a high school, the product of a new and innovative partnership between Lenoir County Public Schools and Lenoir Community College.

Lancer Academy, a concept that grew out of conversations between LCC president Dr. Rusty Hunt and LCPS Superintendent Brent Williams, will install LCC instructors and support staff in a newly renovated building on the KHS campus with the aim of increasing high school students’ access to college-level classes, particularly those that lead to careers in health care.

Female adult on far right side of photo speaks to seated students watching a presentation on TV.

“I am excited about the Lancer Academy and this new opportunity to provide additional educational opportunities and options for our students,” Williams said. “I want to thank Dr. Rusty Hunt and the Lenoir Community College team for bringing this idea forward and for working with us to make this innovative initiative a reality.”  

LCC instructors will teach Lancer Academy health science courses in a face-to-face setting. Other college-level courses, those offered through the district’s Career and College Promise (CCP) program, will be taught either online or in a synchronous learning environment through LCC, according to Kinston High principal Kellan Bryant.

LCPS and LCC have found a variety of ways to accelerate the learning schedule for high school students in recent years, to the point that about 800 of the district’s students – about a third of its high school students – are enrolled in college classes. LCC instructors teach select courses on campus at North and South Lenoir high schools and students district-wide take CCP courses on line.

At Lenoir County Early College High School, the oldest and most obvious example of cooperation between the public schools and community college, more than 200 students go through high school on the LCC campus, essentially spending their junior and senior years as college students.

But Lancer Academy flips the Early College model – LCC is coming to the students – and expands and institutionalizes the on-campus instruction at a traditional high school.

“Any student taking a course through LCC will be a Lancer Academy student,” Bryant said.

Whether students see a health care occupation like nursing or medical office administration in their future or plan a career in business, for instance, Lancer Academy will give them a head start on a college degree or career certification – all at no cost to the student – and ease their transition from KHS to LCC through targeted support services offered at both the high school and college level.

“We have four goals: to increase the level of support that CCP students receive at the high school level, to increase their ability to receive a certificate or complete an associate degree, to create an avenue of access to high-demand career pathways and to create more face-to-face CCP coursework opportunities for students,” Bryant said.

Jada Sutton’s goal is to become a travel nurse. A junior at Kinston High this coming school year, she signed up for Lancer Academy last spring because “it’s a great opportunity, it’s free and it can help me get out of college earlier so I can start my career earlier,” she said after she and her mother attended one of two informational meetings the high school held last month.

Jada is scheduled to take two college courses this fall to get prerequisites in English and music behind her before she moves into health science courses.

“If your goal after high school is either to go to college or start a career, this is how you start that – and you’re starting while you have support,” Athena Wilson, director of student success and equity at LCC, told students at the meeting. Her office directs Career and College Promise activities for the college.

Typically, a Kinston High freshman who qualifies for Lancer Academy this year – there are GPA and other requirements – will take an increased load of required high school courses in the ninth and 10th grade in order to make room for college courses when they’re juniors and seniors.

Man in silhouette lifts a piece of furniture off a dolly inside a newly painted white room.A student interested in earning Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) certification, for instance, would have to successfully complete the high school courses Health Science I and Health Science II.

“The high school classes build the foundation to be able to support the student’s success in the CNA program as a junior and senior,” Bryant said. “With CNA certification, they can walk into a doctor’s office or hospital and begin working and this is the beginning steps of their nursing degree.”

In addition to CNA, Lancer Academy’s focus on health sciences offers courses leading to careers in pharmacy tech, medical assisting, medical office administration and nursing.

“We appreciate very much our partnership with LCC as we continue to work together to create additional course options for students and to expand access to Lancer Academy to all of our traditional high schools,” Superintendent Williams said.

“Lancer Academy is an excellent opportunity for young women and men to get a jumpstart on their career in academics, job certifications and life skills all while attending high school,” Tad Parson, LCC’s Lancer Academy coordinator based at Kinston High. “Successful completion has the ability to change the trajectory of families that choose to participate in programs we have to offer.”

Just the promise of Lancer Academy has already had an impact on Jada Sutton’s family. Ask her mom.

“I’m excited for her. She’s very smart and knows what she wants and she’s going to get it,” Chrystal Graham said after the informational meeting she attended with Jada. “She’s always been into her school work. She’s finding out what the world is all about. She knows she has to put forth the effort to get what she wants. If she’s in control of it, she can go where she wants to go.”

Photo captions (from top):

Kinston High principal Kellan Bryant, right, speaks to parents and students in late July at an informational meeting about Lancer Academy, the new cooperative venture between LCPS and Lenoir Community College to bring face-to-face college instruction to the Kinston High campus. Standing in the background are Athena Wilson, director of student success and equity at LCC, and Tad Parson, LCC’s Lancer Academy coordinator.

Classrooms and offices in the Kinston High building renovated over the summer as Lancer Academy got new furniture earlier this month. Lancer Academy opens Monday in what was built in 1989 as the freshman wing of the high school.