By Sean V. Lehosit
American Electric Power (AEP) pledged $5 million toward a college credit program between Columbus City Schools and Columbus State Community College.
“This partnership will eliminate uncertainty by providing a planned pathway to college and career success,” said Columbus State president David Harrison.
AEP will donate $1 million each year over five years. The program launches this fall with West High School. Each year a new high school will be included. Students could graduate with at least 12 college credits in fields related to energy, environment or information technology, according to school officials.
This fulfills a critical component of the districts STEM initiative, said West High School principal Jason Johnson. Key components include building a strong college partnership and identifying and developing skills for after high school.
Johnson said students face challenges that barely existed 20 years ago. One of those challenges is competing in a global economy.
“The world is a smaller place,” he said.
The college partnership is in its early stages and target audiences have yet to be identified, according to Johnson. He said he envisions the program not only benefiting graduating seniors, but to help middle school students gain a jumpstart to identify future goals.
West High School was identified by the district as a priority school, based on state standards and the economic status of its school body. Eighty percent of its students receive free or reduced lunch, according to Johnson. Students would benefit by entering college with credits under their belt, making schooling more affordable.
“This is a stepping stone to seeing college as a reality,” he said.
AEP president Nicholas Akins said he often hears the cost of tuition becomes an obstacle for students to move forward with their education.
“Our goal is to help students become fully prepared to graduate from high school ready for a career or with a significant number of credit hours toward a college education,” Akins said.
The college partnership could also be a motivational tool for underclassman, as they see a clearer pathway into getting to college. Johnson said preparing their students for life after high school is important, and one of the questions they ask visiting graduates. Most reply they felt prepared, he said.
“On a frequent and first-hand base, we see the commitment of the administration and staff doing all they can to help the West students succeed,” said Dorance Hornsby, West High School Alumni Association president. “The staff and students have worked hard to earn this honor and we congratulate them.”
This is the largest gift made to Columbus State in the college’s history, according to Pamela Bishop, Columbus State Foundation executive director.