Mana Academy Scholars Earn College Credits in Concurrent Enrollment program with SLCC
"We are future college graduates," is a line from the Mana school creed our scholars recite every morning. This is one of many visible ways Mana Academy is committed to our mission and to our community to empower all students to access, enroll and graduate from college.
From kindergarten, Mana scholars are immersed in the affirmation that they too can continue to higher education and attain a college or university degree. Whether it's the annual college door decoration competition, visits to a local campus, visits from presidents or representatives of universities, or hosting a college fair on site, we immerse our scholars in the college-university mindset with purpose and intention.
"Ever since I've attended Mana, they've encouraged me to go to college and introduced me the many options I have...it's something they're very passionate about," said Agnelli, a Mana junior who is also a concurrently enrollment student at Salt Lake Community College.
A report from the Utah System of Higher Education showed that in 2018, Native Americans, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics enrolled in a local college or university at the rate of 9% compared to Whites at 15%. Asians and Blacks were at 13%. When it came to completion rates, the numbers were not any better. For the few Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders enrolled in a local university, only 20% actually continue on to complete a four year degree. The report states that "...if current completion trends continue and the state’s population demographics shift, then the gap between expected completions and actual completions will become increasingly larger."
This alarming opportunity gap is one of many reasons why Mana Academy was created. Three years ago, our director and board members presented to the Salt Lake Community College Board of Directors about our school and our college readiness efforts. Because concurrent enrollment is restricted to bigger school districts, small schools like Mana Academy are usually overlooked as a CE site due to our small student population. However, the SLCC Board of Directors recognized that our missions were in total alignment and by working together, we can address this urgent issue. Mana Academy was approved as a CE partner and site for the following school year and now, our high school scholars take college classes either on campus at SLCC or on our secondary campus, taught by Mana faculty who meet all the requirements to teach college level courses.
What is Concurrent Enrollment?
In the 1987 legislative session, the Utah State Legislature passed Senate Bill 228, which created and provided funding for the concurrent enrollment program, making college courses available to high school students in Utah to earn both high school and college credit simultaneously. For example, our 11th grade scholars enrolled in English 1010 at SLCC will earn the college credits for passing the class AND earn high school credits that will count towards their high school graduation and recorded in their transcripts. According to the Utah State Board of Education, over 50,000 students have earned 350,000 credit hours in the concurrent enrollment program since it launched.
Mana scholars begin concurrent enrollment as early as 10th grade, if they meet a set of college ready criteria like an above average GPA (3.5 and up) and an ACT score that is indicative of college level readiness. Other factors might include a teacher's recommendation based on college level course work in the classroom that assesses and demonstrates mastery of content knowledge, cognitive skills, and habits of success.
The Class of 2021 was the pioneering class to enroll in CE. They all earned academic scholarships to local universities and most of them entered those universities as juniors. Likewise, our Class of 2022 also received multiple full ride scholarships to local universities, including three scholars who are attending and residing in the dormitories of the University of Utah and entered as either sophomores or juniors. (Their story is coming soon!)
Our current CE scholars are taking college classes on site at Mana Academy and also at SLCC twice a week. Remarkably, several of our CE scholars are also involved in sports in their neighborhood schools, they work part time jobs while still expected to keep up with their high school and college courses. It's a balancing act that can be difficult and requires solid discipline.
"It's definitely challenging trying to keep up with my work, manage my time, studying, trying of understand all the information
because it's so much reading. But, so far, it's been a great experience," said high school sophomore, Daniel, who is new to CE this school year.
For high school senior Emily, who has several courses of CE under her belt, "I like the idea of having a head start of what the college experience is like. It's definitely different from high school. The biggest challenge for me is balancing everything because we are still expected to keep up with high school work. Because of concurrent enrollment, I feel like I'll be ready for college when I graduate because I'm already familiar with and understand the expectations."
In addition to CE, every Mana scholar takes a College and Career Readiness class in middle school and ACT Prep and Essential College Success class for high school scholars taught by our College Access Advisor, Ruben Garcia. Seniors must also take the Senior Portfolio class where they learn how to complete a FAFSA form, how to fill out a college application, strategies on how to write impactful personal statement essays, how to write a request for letters of recommendations, and they even role play and practice interview skills for when they have to appear before a scholarship review panel.
Because of concurrent enrollment, I feel like I'll be ready for college when I graduate because I'm already familiar with and understand the expectations."
Agnelli recalls a recent experience where she and her classmates were able to apply their college readiness skills in the college classroom. "In ECON 1740, which we're studying the Economic History of the United States, our professor gave a lecture on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and we were able to contribute to the classroom discussion because of what we learned at Mana last year in Mr. Richard's World History class. Our professor was really impressed at how much we already knew about the topic, and how we identified the correlation between the economic growth of the early US colonies and the Transatlantic slave trade and chattel slavery."
Concurrent enrollment at Mana Academy is our commitment and effort to change the trends and close the opportunity gap in our community. At Mana, this starts by empowering our scholars so they can envision themselves as college students at a young age, and we continuously nourish that vision throughout their primary and secondary education so it becomes the reality.
According to Mana Academy junior, Nive, this experience and the support she gets from Mana staff is what resonates with her the most as a concurrent enrollment student: "I feel so supported here as far my plans and goals for my future. I get so much encouragement. Mana really pushes you to your limits and brings out our best. My peers have also had a huge impact on me, and for those of us in CE, we always help one another. The support you receive from your teachers and peers while being at Mana is so astounding."
Good luck to all our concurrent enrollment students this school year and we wish you all the best in your college courses!