Campus & Community

PBSC to launch Collegiate High School this fall

680x450-Newscenter-rotatorCHSPalm Beach State College is launching a special collegiate high school program in the fall targeting rising high school seniors interested in pursuing college degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

The PBSC Collegiate High School will be based at the Palm Beach Gardens campus. The core requirements for the Collegiate High School are the same as those for the College’s early admission program, a form of dual enrollment. The key difference between the two initiatives is that the Collegiate High School students will take the same science classes from the same professors and focus on STEM. The cohort also will take their required Introduction to the College Experience course together. Students are required to have a 3.2 grade point average. The 30 or more credit hours that they take at PBSC count toward their Associate in Arts degree as well as their high school graduation requirements.

Seven professors are assisting with planning and will teach the inaugural cohort. “We have some of our best faculty working on the project, and they are working together to coordinate classes in ways that we have never before,’’ said Dr. Robert Van Der Velde, associate dean of academic affairs at the Palm Beach Gardens campus. “Teaching the same set of students allows the faculty to develop interdisciplinary projects and demonstrate the connections between subjects.”

The Collegiate High School is in response to Senate Bill 850 approved by Florida lawmakers last year. It requires each of the 28 colleges in the Florida College System to partner with its local school district to offer a collegiate high school by this fall. The Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the School District of Palm Beach County last fall for the school. PBSC, however, already was fulfilling the legislative requirements with its early admission program. The College wanted to go beyond the state’s requirements with a program focusing on STEM.

“The Legislature is giving us a nice push in the right direction. Not everybody was doing it, but we can do more, and we will do more,’’ said Van Der Velde, who proposed the initiative.

The first Collegiate High School cohort is limited to 24 students because of lab space, and there are two options for students pursuing admission into the program. Some students admitted into the College’s existing Math and Science Institute automatically will be admitted into the Collegiate High School, while others will vie for slots through the school district’s Choice Program. Preference for the Choice Program will be given to applicants from Palm Beach Lakes, Palm Beach Gardens and William T. Dwyer high schools. The application deadline for both options is April. 1.

The initiative also is response to a projected need for more skilled professionals in STEM subjects. It comes on the heels of the College’s STEAM Initiative launched in 2012 to prepare students for high-paying, high-demand positions immediately available in these industries.

“It’s the growing field nationwide,’’ Van Der Velde said. “We’re trying to prepare them for these jobs.”

Faculty said they look forward to launching the initiative. “I’m excited. I’ve been preparing since last fall,’’ said Dr. Magdala Ray, professor and department chair for Introduction to the College Experience. “It’s a dynamic, challenging program for high school seniors seeking an early college experience. The faculty involved with the Collegiate High School are meeting weekly and coordinating assignments.”

“I was very flattered to be asked to be part of this. I think it’s a great opportunity,’’ said Dr. Alexandra Gorgevska, a chemistry professor and department chair. “Studies have shown that students tend to lose interest in the STEM fields when they are in middle school, so a lot of work is being done to target middle and high schools in order to show what STEM is, what disciplines they encompass and what types of careers you can have in those fields.

“I think what’s great about having the Collegiate High School is that we’re bringing STEM to the high schools. We are providing these students with resources that they might not have been exposed to in a standard high school classroom,’’ Gorgevska added. “For the students who are interested in the STEM disciplines…they will be able to do so earlier and in a cost-effective way.”

Gorgevska said while the program is limited to seniors, aspirations are to expand it to juniors in the Dual Enrollment program in the future. Dual enrollment and early admission students take their college classes for free.

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