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Northeast Times | December 4, 2022

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NISD: Steele students earning associate degrees during high school

NISD: Steele students earning associate degrees during high school

Northwest ISD’s Collegiate Academy housed at Steele Accelerated High School helps prepare students for college through various course options, but for 11 students, it essentially has served as college, as they’re each on progress to earn an associate degree this year.

Steele, which was founded in 2010, provides students with a career- and collegiate-focused advanced learning environment. That environment allows students to take charge of their educational futures by enrolling in dual-credit high school and collegiate classes at their own pace. Steele focuses on Texas Core courses – those that will transfer to all Texas public colleges and universities – and students can end up classified as a sophomore or junior if enrolling in a four-year college.

Students who plan to earn their associate degrees this year all agreed the opportunity was one of the main reasons they chose to attend Steele. They knew it was an opportunity, they said, and hoped it would give them a leg up once they began attending college.

Bergan Conner, one of the seniors who is on track to graduate with an associate degree, said the paths offered at the Collegiate Academy were something his family kept an eye on in middle school before submitting his application.

“The goal to get the associate degree was something that was actually even presented to us in eighth grade, when we had to apply for academies,” she said. “So we knew it was always a possibility. Our counselors and [academy facilitator] Mrs. Langston helped us ensure we get the right amount of hours to earn our associate degree.”

Counselors also helped the students choose the courses that best fit their individual paths, picking classes that could be beneficial with certain degree requirements.

Last year, Adia Compton became the first Steele student to earn an associate degree at the same time she graduated from high school. Like Adia, the 11 students earning their associate degrees this year will receive them from North Central Texas College, a local community college Northwest ISD has partnered with for most dual-credit courses.

Emily Armstrong, another senior graduating with an associate degree, pointed out that she’ll be one step closer to her career thanks to the academy and NCTC.

“Through NCTC and the Collegiate Academy, I’m able to get all my nursing prerequisites out of the way, so upon graduation I can go straight into the nursing program of my choice,” she said. “I’m hoping to stay in Texas and work in children’s health.”

That line of thinking – getting the necessary coursework out of the way to get into the desired college or career path – was an aspect all 11 students cited as part of their reason for coming to Steele. As a non-traditional high school, Steele provides students with the opportunity to focus on their post-secondary paths, whether those paths are collegiate- or career-related.

While Emily focused on her career plans, classmate Connor McKee said the decision to attend Steele and earn an associate degree was done partially out of a desire to save from student loans and other costs.

“I was already planning on taking two years of community college and then going to a university, because that’s a much cheaper route,” he explained. “Through this way, I’m even eliminating that step – I can get the two years of community college done at the same time as high school, so I actually don’t even have to do that – I can go straight to the university.”

Another common thread the students cited was getting college done quicker.

“I’ve pretty much always known what I wanted to be – I’ve wanted to be a teacher since basically forever,” academy student Katelynn Steinhauser said. So getting my associate degree now just gets me one step closer to starting my career and takes out some of the time required.”