By: Follow South Jersey Staff
MAYS LANDING, N.J. – Thirteen students from the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District are now completing their coursework at Atlantic Cape Community College (ACCC) this year, according to a press release from ACCC.
The seniors from Oakcrest, Absegami and Cedar Creek high schools are participating in their district’s Early College High School partnership with Atlantic Cape, signed in 2019, where they earn both their high school diploma and their associate’s degree at the same time.
“I still have to wake up early, but in general it’s nice to not be in school all day,” Zoe Greblunas, 17, of Galloway Township.
Greblunas and her friends, Daphne Kershenblatt and Rhegan Apel, all seniors at Absegami High School are part of the first cohort of students to spend their entire year on Atlantic Cape’s campus instead of in high school.
“By 11th grade, the students in the Early College program were reaching 30 credits. We said, ‘why not provide students with the opportunity to attend Atlantic Cape as full-time students during their senior year where they can get acclimated to college life on a smaller campus,’” Jennifer Rushton, director of curriculum and instruction for Greater Egg Harbor Regional, said. “As we planned the program it became the best option as a next step for some students.”
Atlantic Cape currently has Early College agreements with seven area high school districts, as well as partnerships with 28 high schools for dual credit, concurrent enrollment or articulation.
“At Atlantic Cape, we are proud to offer so many unique and flexible opportunities for young students to get a head start on their futures, and potentially save them thousands of dollars in the cost of college tuition,” Dr. Josette Katz, Vice President of Academic Affairs, said. “For these high school students, having the ability to take their senior year here on campus gives them a glimpse into college life and provides the real-world experiences that will propel them into a successful career
Greblunas, Kershenblatt, and Apel all began in the program in the fall of 2019 for different reasons.
“They said we’re going to save a lot of money, and that was really important to me. And also getting a head start in college while in high school,” Kershenblattm said.
Apel said her mom encouraged her to participate in the Early College program.
“I had already planned to take most of the coursework required,” Apel said.
Because her family was paying for the courses, there is more pressure to do well, she added.
Rushton said that the students are still Greater Egg Harbor Regional students, so they spend their days and complete their coursework at Atlantic Cape, but they’re able to participate in sports, clubs, activities, after school events at their high school.
Greblunas and Kershenblatt are members of the band and maintain part-time jobs. Kershenblatt will soon appear in Absegami’s play, “12 Angry Jurors.” Rhegan is able to participate in field hockey and lacrosse, as well as National Honor Society, Latin Honor Society, Mock Trial and Student Council.
And they remain connected to their friends.
Through their time at Atlantic Cape, the students must learn time management. Kershenblatt said the college course load provides her more time for herself and she enjoys being able to make her own schedule, something that is preparing her for the rest of her time in higher education.
“I’m more independent,” Apel added. “I’m more focused here on what I need to get done.”
Although the coursework has been difficult, it is worth it, the students agreed.
“That’s it right there,” James Reina, Greater Egg’s Superintendent, said referring to the phrase “worth it.” “They are taking college credits at a greatly reduced cost. They are shaving at least a year off of their college timeline, and they get to still be a part of their high school community. There is so much value in this program; academic, financial, and social.”
After this year, Greblunas plans to attend a four-year college and study anthropology. Kershenblatt would also like to attend a four-year college for biochemistry. Apel said she is considering continuing her education with Rutgers University, which has a building on the Mays Landing campus, to become a lawyer.
Apel said she encourages her friends who are in younger grades to consider the Early College program.
“Don’t be too scared or stress out about it,” she said. “It’s very individual, so just focus on what you need to get done.”
For more information about ACCC’s high school partnerships, visit atlantic.edu/admission/high-school-students.
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