Houston ISD’s five early college high schools are celebrating student success as part of Early College High School Week from March 25 thru March 30. Early college high schools allow students to earn a college associate’s degree for free while earning their high school diploma. HISD’s Challenge Early College High School was the first to open at HISD and in the state of Texas.
“Our goal at Challenge is to provide the students the support and resources they need to be successful high school and college students,” Challenge Principal Tonya Miller said. “The expectations are high but the students that come to this campus know that already and are highly motivated to succeed.”
The campus is located just steps away from the Houston Community College Southwest campus where students take their college courses. Maritza Vazquez-Trejo, a senior at Challenge with more than 50 college credits, recalled the first time she walked into her calculus class at HCC and was surrounded by peers twice her age.
“It was very intimidating to be the youngest in the class,” said Vazquez-Trejo. “But thanks to the support and preparation I got from my teachers at Challenge, I felt very prepared. In fact, I finished the course with very high grades.”
According to research, students in early college high schools have a 93 percent graduation rate, compared with the national average of about 78 percent. Also, earning college credit while still in high school makes students more engaged and boosts their performance in the short and long term.
“I have close to 50 college credit hours so technically I’m already in my second year of college,” said Emiliano Farciert, a senior at Challenge who began taking Advanced Placement courses along with college courses during his sophomore year. “This has helped me tremendously because it’s time and money I’ve saved.”
Across the nation there are more than 200 early colleges that have effectively prepared students—mainly from minority and low-income families—for college success. The other early college high schools in HISD include East Early College High School, Empowerment College Preparatory Academy/South Early College High School, the Houston Academy for International Studies and North Houston Early College High School.
HISD is investing $13.5 million as part of the 2012 bond program and $5 million from the 2007 bond program to build a new facility for North Houston Early College which will be built on the campus of Houston Community College – Northeast at 8001 Fulton. Students are currently using temporary buildings near that location at 99 Lyerly Street.
HISD is also investing $13.5 million from the 2012 bond program and approximately $5 million from the 2007 bond program to build a new facility for South Early College, currently housed at Jones High School at 7414 St Lo. The new facility will be built on the campus of Houston Community College – South at 1900 Airport Blvd. Both schools will accommodate up to 400 students.