Born and raised in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, Cartina Copeland mentioned that her mother desired for her to have a different experience than her sister had in their neighborhood school. So in the Fall of 2010, Ms. Copeland enrolled Cartina in Eastern University Academy Charter School as a 7th grader.
Now a senior, Cartina will graduate in June conscious of her mission to pursue pediatric medicine, a scholarship in hand to Albright College, and 21 earned college credits from Eastern University and Community College of Philadelphia.
Founded in 2009 by Eastern University (St. Davids, PA) as an Early College and Passion Based High School, Eastern University Academy Charter School offers students an opportunity to earn college credit free of charge. We are one of over 200 early colleges across the country. In addition to providing early access to college in high school, the goal is to produce students who master college-level work, are self-directed, employ critical thinking skills to solve problems, and have a commitment to life-long learning.
Hands down, Cartina Copeland epitomizes the necessity and benefit of an early college. Inspired by the push of her mother when she first enrolled into our school, Cartina was told, “You have to take the college courses at Eastern University…I do not want you in college all your life…I want you to graduate before your time.” I am almost certain that Cartina’s mother’s understanding of the early college model motivated her to complete all of her college courses: English 101, American Government, Spanish, Sociology 200, Mass Media, and Psychology 101.
Consistent with her mother’s determination, Cartina will graduate with not only a high school transcript but she will leave with a transcript of earned college credits. We are all familiar with the reasons as to why students do not matriculate through college: sky rocketing costs, poor academic preparation, inability to make the adjustments to campus life, and the limited awareness of unique talents, competencies, and life passions. But this will not be the case for Cartina, and at the very least, she will graduate from college a semester early because of the credits that she has earned.
Cartina began taking college classes on Eastern University’s main campus with college students when she was in the 10th grade. As a result, she is aware of the academic expectations of college. Equally important, she proved that she could successfully manage her time. The purpose of the early college is to give underrepresented students an earlier acclimation period to make some of critical adjustments needed for college opposed to having students overwhelmed and shocked by college demands during their freshman year.
When asked what her experience was like taking courses with college students, Cartina said, “I took my first class with two of my classmates from Eastern University Academy Charter School, and although we all thought the course was hard, we were able to observe the study habits of the college students, we quickly learned that we had to work together on homework assignments, and personally, I took a lot of notes.” In fact, Cartina mentioned that when she was confused or had questions, she often asked her high school peers and Eastern University students for assistance.
Concerning Cartina’s most difficult course, Sociology 200, a course with an extreme workload and further complicated by the professor’s accent, she expressed that she had to quickly learn how to prioritize her high school work, SAT prep classes, and set time aside for at least 20 minutes each night to review notes and readings for her college course. All of these things were a must because she had no plans to fail the course. In fact, Cartina learned that as a young adult, she could not be afraid to interact with the professor. So, if she needed an extension she respectfully communicated with the professor to make her request. The good news is that her request was honored, and more importantly, she learned the value of taking ownership of her education and advocating for herself.
So often our young people are not given credit for taking initiative and being resilient, but here we have a young lady who clearly modeled what we would like to see in many of our young people. Cartina mentioned that one of the most rewarding aspects for her was when she received college acceptances. Three universities mentioned that they were very impressed with her completion of college courses. Those three schools offered Cartina scholarship money, but she has decided to attend Albright College who offered her 88k over four years.
I cannot say enough about how proud we are of Cartina Copeland and we will be sure to heed her words for other students:
“Take advantage of the opportunity because when you attend college you will not have to worry about paying for the course that you already took. This will save you money and time.”
And if I may add, students like Cartina have improved their social and academic competencies as a result of earning college credit. Cartina now has the skills necessary to navigate the academic and social world of college. We need more students like Cartina Copeland. She has proven the power of an early college experience.
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