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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Jun 21, 2021

County Students Earn Associate’s Degree While in High School

High school students throughout Monmouth County who augmented their traditional high school curriculum with college-level courses through Brookdale Community College’s Early College High School (ECHS) program earned their associate’s degree before graduating high school.

“We are honored and excited to congratulate 91 high school students from nine schools throughout Monmouth County that graduated from college this year,” said Brookdale President Dr. David Stout. “These partnerships have saved students both time and money in their pursuit of a college degree while preparing them for the highest level of success after graduation.”

Cara Novak, associate director of Early College High School, adeed, “Brookdale’s ECHS Program not only serves as an invaluable conduit through which students can achieve academic and personal success, it also tangibly fosters the notion that education and enlightenment are society’s most precious ‘goods.'”

Margaret Kane, principal at Saint John Vianney, said, “Students who graduated from the program are prepared for the continued rigors of college. We are confident that our graduates will succeed as they move on to the next stage of their education.”

Through the ECHS program, graduates earned 60 college credits to obtain their associate degree that transfers easily to four-year colleges.

“This is an affordable option for students to get their college degree and accelerate their path toward a bachelor’s,” said Dr. Sarah McElroy, executive director of Career and Transfer Pathways at Brookdale.

The program is set up conveniently for the students. During the high school student’s freshman and sophomore years, the Brookdale professors teach the college courses at the high school to complete the first 30 college credits. After that, students begin taking courses at Brookdale’s regional locations in their junior year before becoming full-time Brookdale students and completing their senior year on the college’s Lincroft campus.

Kelly Robb will be continuing her education at The College of New Jersey next year.

“Taking college-level classes while in high school helped me become familiar with future expectations and responsibilities and, as a result, I feel more confident about continuing my education,” she said. “I always felt like my teachers at SJV and professors at Brookdale were there to help me succeed every step of the way.”

The class of 2021 had the unique experience of a pandemic. Midway through the high school junior year and for all their senior year, they took their college courses virtually. During the first two and half years, their relationships helped them to get through to their college graduation.

“The partnership with Brookdale Community College has been a huge part of our success here at Neptune High School,” said Principal Kevin McCarthy. “The friendships and teamwork of working together as a cohort for the past four years have created a system of strong supports between students and staff. These relationships and support structures helped everyone cope with and succeed within the realm of a worldwide pandemic. They are now approaching high school graduation, having already completed their associate degree, putting them among the elite in our nation. The skills they learned through this rigorous program will serve them throughout their lifetime.”

Raritan High School Principal Andrew R. Piotrowski added, “We are so proud of the 32 students who graduated from BCC. It is rewarding for our students and administrators to see their dreams come true over the past four years.”

Francesca Giordano feels fortunate to have been an Early College Academy student at Rartian High School. She will be entering as a junior at Montclair State University this fall.

“I have developed many special friendships with our close-knit group of classmates while studying both high school and college curriculums,” she said. “I am so proud of all of us earning both a high school diploma from RHS along with an Associate of Arts degree from BCC.”

All the ECHS graduates, from all the high schools were together for graduation at Brookdale.

“I can honestly say that the [Brookdale] graduation was one of the most satisfying moments of my career,” said Joe Palumbo, director of school counseling at Keyport High School. “To see these 12 young men and women, all of whom I have worked with since their very first day in high school, graduate with their associate degree was unbelievable.”

The ECHS academy prepares students to transfer to any university in the country.

Attending Boston University in the fall, Connor North, from Middletown High School North, said “The Early College Academy was an immense challenge but definitely worth it. I kept up my confidence of getting through the program, and it all paid off in the end.”

Classmate Michael Murphy, attending the United States Naval Academy, said, “Tons of fun and so glad I did it, especially with such good friends. I really could not have asked for a more fun time out of what I initially thought was an unattainable task.”