Yancey Schools Receive Grant To Hire College Liaison Director
This year, students at Mountain Heritage High School will be in the first year of a three-year, nearly $718,716 grant that will help them get a head start on college. This program, dubbed NC iRIS, is an innovative new initiative aimed at students who might not otherwise have seen college in their future.
Yancey County Schools was recently notified that it would receive another $177,000 over three years through the U.S. Department of Education to hire a college liaison who will operate as the project director. Mountain Heritage is one of 18 high schools in the state to be part of a larger $15 million federal grant.
“This announcement comes at an opportune time,” said Superintendent Dr. Tony Tipton. “As the state education budget gets tighter and tighter, more responsibilities fall onto fewer people. This grant-funded position will not only alleviate pressures placed on current staff, but allow us to fully maximize the intended benefits of this program.”
The project borrows from North Carolina’s successful early college high schools, where students can earn as much as an associate degree in addition to a high school diploma. The initiative, called North Carolina Investing in Rural Innovative Schools (NC iRIS), is now funded in Yancey County by a $895,716 federal grant administered by the North Carolina New Schools Project.
This additional grant establishes a state-employed college liaison position at each school district. This position will develop a positive relationship between the higher education partner and the local education agency and will assist in bridging the gap to success for high school students operating in a college environment. There is clear evidence that a college liaison provides critical support to an early college high school student’s success in high school and college.
“We are so appreciative to the New Schools Project for awarding Mountain Heritage this additional support,” said grant writer and administrator Colby Martin. “The opportunity that will be allotted to students through this grant is unprecedented in Yancey County. Not only will students be given the chance earn college credit during high school, but they will also be able to modify their schedule based upon their chosen career path. This new position will help shepherd this program to success.”
Along with NC New Schools, Mountain Heritage High School is joined in the effort by several partners, including the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, the N.C. Community College System, and the Golden LEAF Foundation.
“We have terrific partnerships already in place to mobilize this initiative and help maximize the benefit it will have on students,” said Mountain Heritage principal Kevin Huskins. “We have worked closely with Mayland Community College through the Early College and additionally with dual enrollment courses through Career and College Promise.
“With these funds,” Huskins continued, “the NC iRIS initiative will provide hope for students who might not otherwise think college was an option for them.”
Initially, students will take a college course in study skills, then as 11th and 12th graders choose from a pathway that meets their need. The goal of the NC iRIS initiative is for students to earn as many as 21 college credits by the time they graduate. Students take the classes tuition free and also receive academic support from their high school teachers. In tandem with providing students access to college courses, teachers in the participating high schools benefit from proven instructional coaching that promotes rigorous teaching and learning in all classrooms
The NC iRIS project will begin implementation in the 2013-2014 school year. The grant will be in place for at least three years, with a fourth year contingent on available funding.