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Senior to Sophomore program: Students get a jump on college

Photo by Dana Pavek/WDC Public Schools Sisters Melissa Quincer (left), 20, a junior at College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, and Elizabeth Quincer, 18, a senior at Wadena-Deer Creek High School, both earned college credits while attending Wadena-Deer Creek High School.

When Elizabeth Quincer graduates from Wadena-Deer Creek High School on May 29, she will also graduate with 24 college credits and a jump start on her college career.

Quincer plans to attend Concordia College in Moorhead this fall, where she will major in biology and eventually, study pre-med at another university.

"Thanks to the Senior to Sophomore program [at WDC], I can start working on my major right away," Quincer said. "It really gives me a head start."

WDC's Senior to Sophomore program provides students an opportunity to complete their freshman year of college during their junior and senior years of high school. The courses are taught by WDC high school faculty with master's degrees who qualify to teach as adjunct college instructors.

An agreement between WDC, Minnesota State Community and Technical Colleges and the University of Minnesota-Crookston covers the expenses of fees, tuition and books. There is no cost to the student or parent.

The Senior to Sophomore program officially started during the 2007-08 school year; however, prior to that, students were able to enroll in post-secondary classes.

WDC High School Principal Tyler Church said he feels the Senior to Sophomore program is like building a seamless bridge between secondary and post-secondary education.

"I think it motivates high school students to attend college as well as increases their academic knowledge and skills," Church said. "It also increases their likelihood of graduating from college in a timely manner and getting into the workforce or onto graduate school."

Quincer started with a four-credit biology class her junior year and thoroughly enjoyed it, she said. Now with her senior year almost completed, Quincer will earn an additional 20 credits. Those courses included: two English classes, statistics, psychology, biology, advanced office and desktop publishing.

"It's been rigorous," Quincer said. "But that's how it will be in college, so it's good to have the experience under my belt."

Eligible juniors and seniors can take up to 38 college credits without leaving the high school building. Courses offered at WDC include: college writing, public speaking, biology, chemistry, algebra, statistics, psychology, political science, advanced office and desktop publishing.

According to WDC Counselor Toni Kraska, 69 junior and senior students were enrolled in the post-secondary program last year. She said she believes students like the atmosphere of being in high school as well as like being challenged by college-level courses.

"The kids can still be part of high school activities, whether it is BPA, choir or sports, for example, and still get the benefit of college classes," said Kraska, who's in her fourth year of advising students.

Quincer admits before she applied for the Senior to Sophomore program, she was very familiar with it -- thanks to older sister, Melissa, who took advantage of the post-secondary program two years ago.

"Seeing how Melissa balanced college classes and high school, so she could get that extra year in was appealing to me. It made sense to do it too," said Elizabeth, who juggles 16 college credits this spring quarter, along with being involved in BPA, Knowledge Bowl, National Honor Society, jazz band, choir, Big Buddy, being a peer mentor and working part time at her family's business, The Cozy Theatre.

Melissa said her post-secondary experience at Wadena-Deer Creek High School helped her develop a "college mind."

"I liked how my teachers [at WDC] exposed me to college-level thinking. They made me think outside the box," Melissa said.

Pursuing a psychology degree, Melissa is a junior at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, even though it is only her second year there. Because she completed her freshman year at WDC, she is that much closer to fulfilling her plans for graduate school and her dream of becoming a trauma counselor.

Parents Dave and Lynn Quincer are not only proud of their daughters' academic accomplishments at WDC, but are pleased that WDC offers academic opportunities like the Senior to Sophomore program. They are also glad to save approximately $66,000 -- the combined cost of one year of college at St. Scholastica ($34,000) and Concordia College ($32,000).

But as a parent, Lynn Quincer believes the real value is the quality secondary and post-secondary education her daughters received at Wadena-Deer Creek High Public Schools.

"I can't say enough about the teachers that were involved in my daughters' education. They were top-notch," Quincer said. "We're very fortunate that WDC offers the Senior to Sophomore program. Now my daughters can graduate a year early due to the college courses they were able to take at WDC."