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Posted on Aug 27, 2015

A Jump Start on college

While he’ll be only a sophomore this fall, Edgar Vazquez has a jump start on college.
The 15-year-old teenager joined 14 of his Quincy High School classmates at Central Washington University this summer in a unique program that allowed them to get a real taste of college life. Each of the students enrolled in a couple college courses and lived in a dorm for a month.
“It was a big chance for me to discover how college is and also (to earn) the credits,” said Vazquez, who earned seven college credits.
The university’s Jump Start summer college program allows high school students to earn those seven college credits for free. By participating, students saved more than $1,850 in tuition and $1,200 in room and board. The program is paid for by the GEAR UP Mosaic program.
Participating students were able to choose from one of three 100-level courses: the fundamentals of biology, computer science and Math 101. They also earned credits for completing University 102, a college success strategies course.
It was the first time QHS participated in the program, said Dayana Ruiz, GEAR UP site director for the Quincy School District.
The GEAR UP program has been working with the classes of 2018 and 2019 since the students were in middle school. The program follows the students through graduation, giving them the tools to pursue an education after high school.
To apply for the CWU summer program, interested upcoming freshmen and sophomores completed a “scholarship-type process” that included writing an essay and doing an interview with QHS Principal Dave Talley and Ruiz. Also helping in the application process were German Mendoza, GEAR UP site director, and Orion Royster, QHS counselor.
Fifteen students were selected. They also had to take the Compass Test, a test typically taken by high school seniors to get into college.
It was a rigorous process, Ruiz said.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” she said.
At CWU, the Quincy students joined some 40 other high school students from around the state. The high school students were matched in groups with college mentors — college students who chaperoned the high schoolers at the residence halls, in their classes and around the campus. They even helped the younger students with homework questions.
“I made some pretty great friends who I thank God I met,” Vazquez said.
Students lived on the campus from June 21 through July 17. Ruiz, who stayed on campus the first week and then left, said she didn’t get any calls from the students, asking to come home early or complaining they missed their families.
The longest she’s ever been away from her family was five or six days, said Kelsey Ramsey, who took the Math 101 course. It was nice knowing her parents were only an hour away in Quincy, Ramsey said.
“It is worth it,” she said. “I got seven free college credits.”
Vazquez, who had been away from his family for only about a week prior to going to CWU, thought the month away from family would be easy. In the end, he was really missing his family, he said.
The college classes were much different than high school classes, both Vazquez and Ramsey said.
Her math course had more homework than her usual high school classes, and they required more studying outside the classroom, said Ramsey, who is considering studying physical therapy or journalism after graduation.
“It was a lot faster paced than high school,” she said.
The faster pace was required because students had to complete their chosen courses in only four weeks; a typical college course at CWU is completed in 10 weeks.
Of the 15 students who attended the summer program, all but two will be the first generation in their families to attend college, Ruiz said.
Among those students is Vazquez, who hopes to go to veterinary school at Washington State University. His family won’t be able to pay for college without some assistance, he said. So opportunities such as these are important to him.
And, after earning a B- in a college-level course in only four weeks, he’s feeling pretty good about his future.
“Now I feel pretty confident,” he said.

~Jill FitzSimmons/