91 students in academies earn associate’s degrees from HCC, up 75% from last year
By the time Futures Academy students graduate, they have been with the same group of students for as long as four years. Before they go their separate ways—with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in career certificate in hand—they are gathering to say goodbye and promising to stay in touch.
The Futures Academy is a dual-enrollment model that enables students to fulfill high school graduation requirements while simultaneously earning industry certifications, college credits, and for many, an associate’s degree.
The number of HISD students graduating with associate’s degrees has risen steadily since 2010 to a total of 372 this year (60 more than last year). Futures Academy associate’s degrees rose from 52 last year to 91 this year. Most of HISD’s early college high schools’ numbers have risen as well: Challenge Early College High School has 71 graduates with associate’s degrees; East Early College High School has 94; South Early College High School has 9; Houston Academy for International Studies has 56; and North Houston Early College High School has 51.
In partnership with Houston Community College, students receive a blend of face-to-face and online instruction taught by both high school teachers and college professors. The result is a highly relevant, technology-rich atmosphere that keeps students engaged, motivates them to stay in school through graduation, and prepares them for success regardless of the path they choose.
Initially, the Futures Academies Program was called the Houston Innovative Learning Zone (HILZ) program when it was launched in August 2012, but by August 2013, it had been renamed, and there were programs at five high schools. Now, the list has grown to eight schools, and many students are graduating from the academies for the first time. For a complete list of schools, visit the Futures Academy Program page here.
Furr High School Senior Recognition Ceremony
The Furr High School Academy of Petroleum Engineering Technology’s first class graduated alongside Houston Community College students on May 7, and had a smaller ceremony at Furr on May 17. Two dozen seniors received either an associate’s degree in a petroleum-related field or a career/industry certification.
Principal Bertie Simmons told the students how proud she was of them, and School Support Officer Dino Coronado reminded students that they should never stop learning.
“Education is a journey, not something that you finish,” Coronado said. “Love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life.”
Jane Long Academy School of Pharmacy Technology Senior Breakfast
Principal Marcy Baez welcomed 16 graduating Jane Long Academy seniors to breakfast, where they received medals representing the attainment of their associate degree from Houston Community College.
Career and Readiness Assistant Superintendent Michael Love congratulated the graduates. “You now have an associate degree in addition to your high school diploma, and that is a testament to your hard work,” he said. “If you have gone through this program successfully, you can do anything.”
HCC-Coleman Program Director Jeff Gricar told students that never before in his 20 years of teaching has he become so close to a group of students. “You came in with a positive attitude every day,” he said. “It has been a privilege to be your teacher and, I hope, your friend.”
SSO Rolando Trevino asked a few of the students where they are going to college. University of St. Thomas, Rice University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, and Prairie View A&M were among the responses.
“I am here to give you a reality check,” Trevino said. “You are going to need some grit to get through the years to come, but we all want you to be successful—not just for yourself and your family, but for Jane Long, the Futures Academies, and for HCC. Because you are the first class to graduate from Jane Long, you are paving the way for those behind you.”
Principal Baez remembered when she took her students to visit Houston Community College freshman year. “I felt as overwhelmed as you did,” she said. “But you were so excited to have your HCC IDs! Now you are going to have all different college IDs, and I am looking forward to hearing from all of you next year.”
Other Futures Academies had or are having celebrations as well, including Westside High School on Friday, May 20, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Students earned an associate of science degree in biology as part of Westside’s Health Sciences Futures Academy.