Dual Credit Students Set for Graduation

Nearly 50 students and guests from Ovilla Christian School near Waxahachie, Texas, were on campus Wednesday to tour the LeTourneau University campus.  Among them were six seniors who are on track to be among the first dual-credit students to earn their 63 college credits for their Associate in Interdisciplinary Studies degrees in May—even before they get their high school diplomas.  

The students began taking dual-credit courses through an agreement announced in 2017 when they were sophomores.  Some of their courses were offered in their classrooms on ground, taught by LETU-credentialled Ovilla faculty members; some of their courses were offered online, through the university’s Canvas educational portal.

“The program was announced our freshman year,” said Rachel Quintana of Red Oak.  She plans to earn her Bachelor of Science in psychology and seeks to do Christian counseling.  “I am a first-generation college student, but I was always expected to go to college.”  Rachel said she has plans to attend Southwestern Assemblies of God University.

Mya Freeman of Midlothian said she was excited about the program when she heard about it.  “My parents have always encouraged me to get ahead, and this way, I’ll be starting college at 18 years old next fall as a junior.”  Mya said she plans to attend Texas Woman’s University for her bachelor’s degree, but then wants to attend dental hygiene school.

“At first, the thought of the dual-credit program was scary,” said Ella Etter of Midlothian. “I didn’t know whether we could even do it, but now I feel so prepared for college.  Going off to college now is no longer scary.” Ella plans to attend Dallas Baptist University to major in elementary education and music therapy.

Nicholas Rodgers of Duncanville said he, too, had some initial concerns.  “I was a little worried if I could take a college course and pass it, but I learned it’s not that different. They just expect a little more, and once I knew that, it helped.”  He said he was glad to be able to get all his college general education classes out of the way because, “It is saving me tons of money!” Nicholas has already applied to LeTourneau University to study electrical engineering. 

One of the most difficult classes according to Mark Nicholas of Red Oak was one he took online in computer science.  “The CS class was hard because programming was new to me,” he said. “It was hard learning C++ by myself.  I’ve been told it is one of the most rigorous dual-credit courses.”

Jordan Kiefer of Ovilla said he doesn’t yet know what he wants to do with his career, but he plans to attend University of Texas at Dallas or Texas A&M in Corpus Christi to learn more about biology research. 

All of the students said they stay busy. 

“Some are very active in their church, some sing in their praise band, some have jobs, and some are athletes,” said Donna Garrett, the Ovilla admissions counselor who the students refer to as their “dual-credit mom.”  She said Nicholas and Jordan both play high school baseball, and Mark runs cross country.  Rachel has a job as a coffee barista 20 hours a week to save money for college. 

“None of us would be here if it weren’t for Mrs. Garrett,” Rachel said.  The students all agreed that having a champion for them at their school was, indeed, very helpful. 

Garrett said that Ovilla also made sure that each of the online courses were scheduled into the students’ class day.  During their dual-credit class periods, they had a facilitator paid by the school to help them stay on track and check their grades.

“We pay a facilitator to lead online class to help the students stay on track, but the students all knew that their coursework was their own responsibility,” she said.

One important lesson all the students said they learned early was the value of time management.

“I use a planner,” Mya said.  “It just doesn’t work without a planner.” She also said she learned she had to persevere and get classwork done in class to cut down on homework.  “I can do it [the assignment] at home, but if I can do it in the class period, I will.  My best advice to others is to do the work when you’re given the opportunity and not try to do it all at home.”   

Nicholas added, “I had a lot of late nights, but I got it done.”  

The students said taking dual-credit classes two-at-a-time was especially challenging. Rachel said that was when she was most grateful for the Sunday night deadlines on her college classes, because she found she needed some weekend time on Saturdays to finish her college work.  Mya said she had one class with a Monday deadline that was even better.

All the students took both on-ground courses as well as online courses.  All agreed that the on-ground courses provided them easier access to their teachers. They all agreed that the online courses had a different dynamic, and that they felt they had improved their communication skills as a result. 

Some of the online classes provided video instruction. Mya said she learned that feedback from the professors was important. She said it helped her bring up a grade from an 87 to a 97 once she fully understood the scope of what the professor required.

The students had the opportunity to purchase Chromebook laptops through the school when they began their dual-credit program.  Ella said she also found using the Canvas app on her cell phone was helpful.

All the students were responsible for purchasing or renting their college textbooks during each of their dual-credit courses, and all said the cost savings was of primary importance, whether they got their books from Amazon.com or from Chegg.com.  Most said they preferred to rent when possible, but all appreciated lower-than-retail prices.  Rachel said once she got the wrong edition of a textbook for one of her classes by mistake, but the content was still so similar, she just kept and used the book for the class. 

The thousands of dollars in cost savings these students will realize by completing what is essentially their first two years of their college education while they are still in high school is something that they each said will put them ahead. 

Ella summed it up well when she said, “Hard work pays off.”