ELLISVILLE – When the Mississippi Department of Education granted the Laurel School District the School of Innovation Designation in April, it opened new doors of opportunity for qualifying Laurel High School juniors with the introduction of “Middle College.”
“The Middle College Program is an excellent opportunity for our students to get a jumpstart to earning an advanced degree or a career technical education. We are thankful to Jones College’s administration for their willingness to see this program to fruition,” said Laurel School District Superintendent, Dr. Toy Watts.
Beginning in August, qualifying Laurel HS students with an ACT composite score of 19, including a 19 on the Math section and a 17 in the English section, who also have a 3.25 GPA may begin working on an Associate of Arts degree from Jones College while also earning their high school diploma. The innovative, Middle College program is one of the programs the Laurel School District was approved to offer as a School of Innovation Designation by the MDE.
“I was blessed to experience the Dual Enrollment program through Jones College while at Laurel High School. It helped me tremendously and my peers prepare for college and get some of our general courses and electives out of the way,” said Laurel High School 2021 Valedictorian, Jaymar Jackson, II. “This additional program is not only going to better our education system, but it will also change the lives of our students and community. Thank you for expanding the opportunities for the Tornado Family and allowing us to become a part of the Bobcat Nation.”
Jackson completed 30-college credit hours while at Laurel High School. Future Middle College students will have the opportunity to earn twice that many credits upon completion of their Associate of Arts degree in General Studies. Additionally, these students will have no out-of-pocket expenses. Local and federal funds cover the Middle College student’s tuition, fees, books and transportation.
“Our students will have the same opportunities as any other student within the county, state and nation. We are grateful to the research and curriculum unit, or RCU at Mississippi State University, who support the implementation of the MDE’s innovative school initiatives. A special thank you goes to the Jones County Supervisors for their financial support of the Middle College students as they pursue their associate degrees. Many of these students will be first-generation college attendees and their generosity will ease any financial hardship associated with college expenses,” said Laurel High School Principal, Dr. Michael Eubanks.
More than a year ago, the process began to provide what Eubanks calls, the most innovative partnership the district and Jones College have ever embarked on together. It also marks the first high school to offer its students this unique opportunity in the Jones College eight-county district. Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith said he is excited to have the opportunity to work with Laurel School District which is one of only 10 model school districts in the state designated as a School of Innovation.
“The Middle College program is a great model that can be implemented on a grander scale if we do this right. We can set a path in the future where we can have students graduating earlier, on a faster pathway to work or the university. It gives so many more opportunities for the students. The more tools a student has in their educational toolbelt, the better the chances to be able to compete and fulfill their purpose in life,” said Smith.
About 20 Laurel High School students are expected to be in the first group this fall, taking face-to-face, online and hybrid classes on both campuses. Two years later in May 2023, these students are expected to leave Laurel High School with both their High School diplomas and an Associates of Arts degree from Jones College, with no expenses. The only drawback, Jackson said he had about the new Middle College program was personal.
“The Class of 2023 will be one step, actually two steps ahead of other students at the university with the Associate of Arts degree. I know they are excited to be able to get that associate degree out of the way. In fact, they may end up graduating before me, or with me!” said Jackson.
For more information about the Middle College Program contact, Dr. Michael Eubanks by email at email@example.com