PIERZ - Imagine going to a high school where you can routinely take free college classes during your junior and senior years.
Imagine going to a high school that can help you prepare for technical college programs by offering all of the general college education courses required by those programs.
And imagine going to a high school where you can earn an Associate Degree at the same time you complete high school graduation requirements.
It's all possible at Pierz High School, thanks to leadership from Superintendent George Weber, careful scheduling by Principal Karrie Boser and promotion from counselor Jessica Janski.
That leadership combination has helped place Pierz High School at the forefront of post-secondary opportunity among rural schools in Minnesota.
Pierz Healy High School students participated in an interactive TV course through the Distance Education program.
"I wanted to provide this service to kids and parents whereby they could start their college careers while still in high school," Weber said. "The college courses also set a standard of rigor in the classroom for eligible juniors and seniors. Finally, access to college classes here potentially saves thousands of dollars for parents and students as the courses are free for the students."
Weber also said that the program has significantly expanded the Pierz Healy High School curriculum, especially in the area of liberal arts, a discipline that often suffers because of state testing requirements in math, science and English.
"Our Associate program has created a much more expansive liberal arts experience," Weber said. "Especially for courses not usually offered or emphasized before. This definitely expands the choices for students."
Many of the courses needed for degree requirements are taught by high school instructors who have advanced degrees and have been credentialed as college instructors by Central Lakes College. Courses include English composition, college literature, algebra, statistics, trigonometry, psychology, sociology and several science courses.
Other classes that are needed but not offered on the Pierz campus are picked up via the interactive TV network and delivered to the Pierz ITV studio. Other specific discipline requirements may be taken through Central Lakes College's extensive Web course program of nearly 70 courses per semester.
Arranging all of these classes is a challenge, but through the cooperation of the high school staff, the interactive TV network and CLC, all components to access the degree have been put in place.
"We are very pleased with our relationship with Central Lakes College," Weber said. "CLC has been extremely cooperative in helping us organize this program, both in terms of providing courses and teacher collaborators."
About 90 juniors and seniors are currently participating in college coursework.
"This program has allowed me to get a head start on college and get credits that I don't have to pay for," said Jenny Brenny, a junior interested in a biology degree. "It is also very easy to talk to our own teachers if we have questions or problems."
Junior Dwight Przybilla, who is considering majoring in music after high school graduation, agreed.
"It is so convenient to be able to take college classes right here," Przybilla said. "You have to put much more effort in these classes, but it is worth the effort."
Pierz High School leaders will continue to refine and increase course offerings. Courses in music and oceanography will be added and Web-enhanced classes will be explored if such courses are consistent with the Associate Degree program.
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