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When Pasadena City College formally launched its dual-enrollment programs in 2015 — allowing high school students to earn college credit during their school days — leaders envisioned a combined educational experience, making it possible to earn a high school diploma and a college degree at the same time.

On Tuesday, seven students from John Muir High School showed that vision in action.

Local leaders and Pasadena educators gathered at PCC to celebrate the seven students, who between them are earning 13 associate degrees in addition to their high school diplomas this spring. The event marked a major milestone for the college’s partnership with the Pasadena Unified School District. This is the first time that multiple dual enrollment students are earning their associate degrees in the same year.
 
The dual-enrollment program at John Muir is operated through PCC Northwest, the satellite campus established by the college in 2016. Students at John Muir can begin taking college courses as early as the ninth grade. To earn the associate degree, students must take additional coursework beyond the typical school day. 
 
José A. Gómez, PCC’s interim superintendent/president, highlighted the benefits of dual-enrollment programs for young learners and their families. “We know that students who take part in dual enrollment are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in and finish college, and have better success academically,” he said. “These wonderful students are the living proof of the importance and the success of dual enrollment.”
 
The seven students, and their associate degree areas of focus, are:

  • Asha Bailey – Administration of Justice
  • Lauren Gray – Humanities; Social and Behavioral Sciences; Social Justice Studies; Gender Ethnic Multicultural Studies
  • Mphatso Johnson – Administration of Justice
  • Zackery Parkins – Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Jae’da Reed – Business; Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Jae’la Reed – Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Londyn Sewell – Social and Behavioral Sciences; Speech Communications; Humanities
     

The students acknowledged the extra work required to accelerate their education. “There have been so many countless, sleepless nights, doing stacks of work,” Lauren Gray said, as she thanked her parents and counselors who helped her along the way. 

But she also reflected on the breadth of her experience. “PCC Northwest in general has given me so many great opportunities,” she said. “All the different classes, the interdisciplinary education I got to experience was so amazing. I’m so excited to use the skills that I have learned.”

Having completed their two-year degrees before leaving high school, the students have been accepted to a broad range of 36 colleges and universities around the country, including Howard University, USC, Columbia University, the University of North Carolina, and eight University of California campuses, including UCLA and UC Berkeley.

Event organizers shared brief biographies of each student, demonstrating that their commitment to college was balanced by an extensive range of extracurricular activities. The seven students have participated in athletics, choir, and other school clubs and groups. In addition, Mphatso Johnson earned his Eagle Scout honor in December, and Londyn Sewell runs a photography business. Jae’da and Jae’la Reed, identical twin sisters who played for Muir’s women’s water polo team, completed their joint degrees in less than two years.

Raquel Torres-Retana, dean of educational partnerships at PCC who oversees the college’s dual-enrollment programs across the West San Gabriel Valley, applauded the students’ determination to succeed. “These seven students have taken classes in the evenings, they have taken classes in the summer,” she said. “It takes true dedication and true commitment to get to where you are today.”
 
In addition to certificates and medals from PCC, the students received commendations from local elected leaders, including Sen. Anthony Portantino, and Asm. Chris Holden, who represents Pasadena. It was Asm. Holden who originally sponsored legislation to formalize dual-enrollment programs across the state, and who has since supported additional measures to expand the offerings to students. 
 
“The vision that [Asm. Holden] had is coming together today,” said Ann Marie Hickambottom, who serves as field representative for the assemblymember. “Having seven graduates this year is really amazing.
 
“We are giving our students a leg up on their college education, helping them achieve their academic goals, and helping their families and parents,” she said.

06/22/2024