ECA students struggle to stay connected to their high schools


Photo courtesy of the Daily Nonpareil

Early College Academy’s 2019 graduating class, the first class to graduate from ECA

Jordan Kreft, Editor-in-Chief

Early College Academy (ECA) is a program that allows students from AL and TJ to attend Iowa Western Community college for their junior and senior years. The program is completely free and allows the students to earn their associate’s degree by the time they graduate high school.

The program has had a huge positive impact on the schools and students that have participated.

“We expect ECA students to go on to bigger and better things,” explained Spencer Mathews, ECA coordinator. “Really, ECA is just the beginning of a long and successful journey for the students.”

Since its creation, ECA has had two graduating classes, with its third to graduate this May. Many of its students have gone on to out-of-state colleges to pursue a variety of careers.

The course load is rigorous; ECA students attend college courses full time. ECA students are expected to maintain good grades and be a positive representation of their high school.

But, most ECA students don’t struggle with the course load or their grades. Instead, they struggle with staying connected to their high schools.

The ECA does allow students to participate in extracurriculars and programs (such as music, ROTC, and sports) from their high school, but many students don’t participate.

Personally, as an ECA student, I’ve struggled to stay involved in my high school. The course load is intense and takes up a lot of my time. I used to be involved in activities but stopped participating to allow more time for my studies.

I’m the editor of the newspaper, but I struggle to write stories because I don’t know what’s going on at the school. My only connection to TJ is my 50-minute newspaper class and that’s not enough to keep me up to date on the happenings of TJ.

“If you don’t make the extra time to do electives at school, or theater, or sports, it can be easy to feel more distanced from your high school,” explained Kylee Koenig, 11th-grade ECA student from Abraham Lincoln High School.

“Personally, I haven’t struggled to stay connected because I’m a part of journalism and ROTC.” Koenig elaborated, “As long as you make time to attend sporting events and other things, that can help you stay connected to the school.”

This isn’t to say that ECA isn’t worth it, most ECA students wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything. But, it’s important to consider these factors when applying for ECA.

While ECA provides an incredible opportunity for students wanting a jump start on their futures, it’s important to consider how connected you want to be to your high school and the effort you are willing to put in to maintain that connection.

If being connected to your high school is extremely important to you, it’s important to think about the extra time it will take to keep those connections through extracurriculars, outside programs, or electives.

Whatever decision you make, it’s important to think about your priorities and what kind of future you want to have. Either way, your decision is important and either school would be excited to have you.