Viviana Hernandez doesn’t want to live the life of a migrant field worker, as her parents have. Neither finished high school.
This year, the graduate of Memorial High School in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District in South Texas, located along the U.S.-Mexico border, spent half of her day taking courses at South Texas College, a community college.
“When I started taking college classes, my parents didn’t understand my tight schedule, that I needed to study,” said Hernandez, 18, in a PBS NewsHour report that aired on Thursday. “They wanted me to help out around the house, to look after my sister and my little brother.”
She found time somehow. When she walked the stage to receive her high school diploma, she had already earned an associate’s degree in biology.
Viviana was featured in the second of a two-part series on the district’s efforts to expand college dual enrollment courses. John Merrow of Learning Matters reported on the story as part of PBS’ American Graduate initiative. PSJA ISD Superintendent Daniel King’s goal is for student to graduate with college credits. He wants them to go on to earn certificates, or even degrees. Almost all of the district’s students are Latino, and most are low-income. According to King, about 40 percent of the graduates this year had at least three college credits and 60 earned two-year associate degrees.
The conversation over whether all students should go on to college has been hotly debated. In a recent opinion piece for The Washington Post, Robert Samuelson argued that college-for-all efforts do more harm than good and that college courses have been “dumbed down” as a result.
Do you think all students should take college coursework in high school? What similar efforts are your districts taking to expose more students to dual enrollment courses? Are they trying to enroll all students, or just those designated gifted?