Getting a jump on college

Whittier Regional High English teacher Elaine Bucher chats with student Madison Fortier about a college writing assignment.

A college course at a vocational school? Absolutely!

Whittier Regional High seniors are getting a head start on life after high school by taking an advanced writing class worth three college credits. 

Forty-five members of the Class of 2017 are enrolled in Comp 101, being taught for the first time at Whittier, in partnership with Northern Essex Community College. Students save time and money — said they and love the idea of being ahead of the game when they enter college next fall. 

"I'm getting a better grasp of how I should be writing for college,'' said Whittier senior Salvatore Fonzo, 18, of Ipswich. "Plus it looks good on my transcripts. Colleges will see that I didn’t let a class like that go by, and they’ll know I am willing to go after things I want."

Students save $500 on the class. Three-credit courses at NECC cost $650, but the class is offered at Whittier for $150 plus $60 for books.

The college course takes the place of regular English classes that students attend at Whittier, and they get credit for both.

The course was designed last summer by two Whittier English teachers and a professor at NECC. English teacher Elaine Bucher, who is co-teaching the class with a NECC professor. Bucher said she enjoys working with the students, who had to pass the Accuplacer college placement test to enroll.

"Most of them are quite motivated," Bucher said. “Many have taken other credits and some will even be able to skip an entire semester when they get to college."

In the past, NECC has invited high school students to enroll in eight- and 16-week night classes. Seniors Madison Fortier, 17, of Salisbury and Sayde Coates, 18, of Haverhill have already both earned 12 credits taking history and literature courses. After the writing class, they will have completed the equivalent of one semester at college.

"Originally, I wasn’t going to do it because I thought it would just be more work,'' Madison said of taking the writing class. "Then I realized the money I would save.''

She began attending classes Mondays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at NECC in the middle of her sophomore year, and paid for them by working 30 hours per week moving freight and stocking toys at Walmart.

"It was difficult because as a sophomore I was still trying to figure out high school and what shop I wanted to go into, but doing college stuff and getting it out of the way seemed like a good idea,'' she said.

Madison plans to study computer networking or architectural design in college, and will be the first one in her immediate family to pursue education beyond high school.

Sayde said she was happy to have Madison in classes with her.

"Some of the essays, especially in American lit class, were pretty tough,'' Sayde said. "But we had each other to rely on, and we got through it. We helped each other.''

The credits are received from NECC and are transferable to any state school in Massachusetts. Whittier plans to add other college-level classes during the school day in the future, including a math course, said Patty Lowell, director of pupil personnel services.



Whittier Regional High students take classes that earn Northern Essex Community College credits.

The credits are transferable to any state college.

Students save money because the college course is offered at a discount.

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