Mangandi, who lives in Hyattsville, is not some kind of whiz kid who already finished high school.
Instead, he is one of 100 students in Prince George’s County who moved last summer from middle school to a college campus as part of an innovative dual-
enrollment program that allows students to take high school and college classes at the same time.
Three years from now, these students are projected to receive not only high school diplomas but also, if all goes well, associate’s degrees as graduates of the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College.
The program, which finished its first year this month, was created as a way for the school system to expose high school students to college-level work and offer parents more educational choices amid declining enrollment. It is a joint venture between the county school system and the community college.
The initiative, known as a middle college high school, is patterned after similar programs in California, Texas and New York. It is the first of its kind in Maryland.
“The idea behind the program is to catapult a young person forward, providing them not just with access but with skills on how to be successful,” said Cecilia Cunningham, the executive director of the New York-based Middle College National Consortium. “It is done in a strategic way by not just offering the classes, but placing them in the environment.”
Unlike many dual enrollment programs in which college professors go to high schools to teach, in this instance, the students go to the college professors.
But in their first year at the academy, there is little difference between what the ninth-graders experience at the college and what they would have gone through in their first year of high school.
Yes, the classes are smaller. There are no more than 25 students in each class. Their bus rides are a little longer. Some students travel three hours round trip to attend the academy. And some students miss the socializing that comes with high school.
“You’re not around a lot of people, but in the end we still will get the advantage,” said Teresa Carrazza, 15, of Hyattsville.
Next year, as sophomores, they will take nine college credits and are likely to be in class with college students.
This year, the students’ classes were held on the first floor of Lanham Hall, a building specifically dedicated to the academy that is adorned with blue-carpeted hallways and neon-blue lockers. The school consists of four classrooms in which English,
geometry/algebra 2-trig, history and Chinese are taught. The only time the students leave Lanham Hall (chaperones are used) is when they take their “lifetime fitness” class, their only college course in the first year.