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BeadworkBeadworkEffie Kokrine Charter School


Ray Barnhardt, Professor of Cross-Cultural Studies
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Member, EKCS Academic Policy Committee/Board

It used to be that before you went to college you had to graduate from high school. However, the lines between high school and college are no longer easily demarcated by grade level, age, or institutional affiliation. While older adults have the opportunity to acquire a high school diploma through programs such as the GED, young adults now have the opportunity to pursue college-level degrees and certificates while still enrolled in high school.

Throughout the country, new bridges are being built between high schools and colleges that open up opportunities for students to earn dual credit in courses that count toward meeting their high school graduation requirements, while at the same time being applicable to a college degree. Such an opportunity is now becoming a reality here in Fairbanks as well, where the Effie Kokrine Charter School, in collaboration with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Fairbanks Native Association, has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Early College Consortium for Native Youth at Antioch University Seattle to establish an Early College program.

Students enrolled in the Early College program will begin taking college-level courses in their junior year that can be applied to various UAF associate and certificate degree programs, as well as meet local high school graduation requirements. In their senior year, students will be enrolled full-time in college-level courses and by the time they graduate from high school, they will be well on their way to completing a two-year college program. EKCS will continue to support the Early College students through an additional year to the completion of an AA or certificate program. Tuition fees will be covered by the Early College program, along with a variety of support and tutorial services to assist students in progressing toward the completion of their program. In addition, students will participate in internships and receive guidance to assist them in selecting a career path suited to their interests.

The programs that EKCS students will be able to choose from when they select a “major” are drawn from the existing offerings through the UAF Interior-Aleutians Campus and the Tanana Valley Campus. In some cases they will enroll alongside other students in existing courses available on campus, while in other cases where there are enough students to warrant it, special sections of courses will be offered at the school, though EKCS students will have to meet the same academic requirements as other college students. During the current spring semester, 16 EKCS students are enrolled in a college-level math course taught by an Interior-Aleutians Campus faculty member, while several other students are enrolled in core curriculum courses on-campus at UAF.

Some of the AA-level and certificate programs that students will be able to choose from include Tech-Prep, Law Enforcement, Rural Human Services, Construction Trades, Veterinary Science, Future Teachers, Tribal Administration, Fire Management, Subsistence Specialist, Early Childhood Education and Baccalaureate Prep.

Most of these majors are already offered to adults throughout the Interior, so the Early College students will be enrolling in established programs for which local job opportunities are available. Furthermore, many of the programs are tailored to address areas of particular interest to communities in Interior Alaska. As with all elements of the EKCS curriculum, the emphasis in the Early College program will be on the integration of academic studies with a cultural frame of reference to give local relevance to what students are learning. EKCS will ensure that all students receive high-quality instruction in the full range of college prep academic subjects necessary to prepare them for success with the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam, as well as acquiring the qualifications to succeed in college-level work.

While the initial funding for the Early College program is intended to be used for planning of the Early College curriculum this year, there are EKCS students who have already taken advantage of the joint high school–college opportunities. Ashley Kokrine, an EKCS senior, enrolled in three UAF courses during the fall semester, and she is now enrolled as a full-time student at UAF for the spring semester, so she will have the equivalent of two semesters of coursework on her college transcript by the time she graduates from high school.

EKCS is currently recruiting students into the Early College program beginning with the Spring 2007 semester. Students who wish to get started can enter the school at any grade level from 7 to 13, with grades 7–10 focusing on academic preparation for college-level courses, and grades 11–13 focusing on enrolling in the Early College programs that are available. Starting in the junior year, students will be considered college students with an advisor, a major, and a variety of academic support services available to help build the bridges between high school, college, and culture.

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