CATONSVILLE – Woodlawn High Grade 9 student Jeremiah Greenidge clutched the flight simulator’s controls with both hands and looked at the giant LED screens in front of him.
Carefully, he navigated his virtual plane onto a virtual Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport runway. He avoided the grass. He did not crash. It was a smooth transition from blue skies to paved ground.
This was Jeremiah’s first flight simulator attempt, and it came during his first full week on a college campus. Jeremiah and 90 of his peers are part of the BCPS and Community College of Baltimore County Early College Program at Woodlawn High School.
Even though the Woodlawn High students have not yet started high school, they must get acclimated to the CCBC campus in Catonsville.
That’s because Early College Program students will have the opportunity to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree or up to 60 credits.
This new magnet program allows students to complete coursework at the high school or community college campus. There is no cost to attend the Early College Program. Transportation, tuition, books, and fees are included.
Early College Program students got a sneak peek of college life during a weeklong program at the CCBC-Catonsville campus June 26-30. Students met their peers, their teachers, and their potential future college instructors. Plus, they got to tour the CCBC Catonsville campus.
This meant visits to the CCBC CADD Computer Lab, the Mortuary Science Lab, the Planetarium, Automotive Technology and, yes, the Aviation Simulation Lab.
After instructor and licensed pilot Rajan Martens shared with students aviation career opportunities, he asked who would be interested in trying the flight simulator.
Nearly every student immediately raised a hand.
Jeremiah, seated in the front row, was one of the first students to try the simulator. Despite his enthusiasm, he is not an aspiring airline pilot. His interest? Law. His focus, for now? Environmental science.
While attending Sudbrook Magnet Middle, he said he was eager to apply to the Early College Program because it would give him an opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school. He knows it will not be easy. Early College Program students are taking the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) path.
“It will be tough,” Jeremiah said during a break in airplane simulations. “But I just have to study and try my best. And if I do that, I know I am not going to fail.”
Jeremiah, who also plays running back and linebacker in football, exudes self-confidence, which was common amongst the Early College Program students. Despite being from different middle schools, the students quickly made friends during their week at CCBC Catonsville.
They seemed to enjoy the spotlight that comes with being part of an inaugural class. There was lots of media coverage about the program.
Woodlawn High's early college program preparation kicks off https://t.co/bSl3DGpu0g— Alyssa Alston (@AlyssaBCPS) July 5, 2017
Woodlawn High teachers led the students through their week on campus. This includes Brandon Myers, who will serve as the Early College Program’s math teacher.
Myers told his inspiring story at a welcoming ceremony. In Grade 3, Myers missed 87 days of school. His mother’s drug use disrupted his schedule. Despite a difficult upbringing, Myers completed an early college program and was able to graduate from Towson University just two years after he graduated from Parkville High. He had a master’s degree four years later.
He paid for college by working as a bus-boy, waiter and bartender.
“My success,” he said, “is because of certain teachers and counselors who helped me along the way,” he said.
Now it is his turn to serve as an inspiration. Myers said it was a true advantage for teachers to get to know students during their week on a college campus.
“You know, it’s really beneficial,” he said. “We can really plan ahead now.”
For students, planning for their futures will now have more flexibility. The more college credits they earn, the fewer they might have to pay for later. It could mean earlier graduations. It could mean finding their future career paths sooner. It will definitely mean being a Woodlawn Warrior and a CCBC Cardinal all at once.
“An early college high school program is very unusual across the nation,” BCPS Community Superintendent Karen Blannard said. “Out of 22,000 high schools, there are only a few hundred that provide this opportunity for students. And [Early College Program students] are the first class at Woodlawn High and BCPS to begin this journey.”