A fairly well-kept secret on the Ohio Dominican University campus is that ODU is partnered with a local high school. In fact, that high school is right behind ODU. The Charles School at Ohio Dominican University is a five-year, early college, public charter high school. Yes, that is three compound adjectives, all three of which are probably unfamiliar to most people. The Charles School (TCS) is a pretty unusual place, and, like ODU, a great place to go to school. I have been working there for almost three years now and I love it. The school is small – only about 400 students and the staff is dedicated. What’s not to love?
An early college high school is a school that has partnered with a college in order to allow high school students to take college classes, almost always on the college campus, in the same classroom with traditional college students. Thus, these high school students are going to college early. All the ODU classes that TCS students take are totally free of cost to the students’ families. The school pays for everything – tuition, books, materials, even those mysterious ‘technology fees’.
TCS is a five year school so that students can ease into college classes slowly and still have time to earn as much as two full years’ worth of credits. Some students even earn an associates degree. They can do this because of the fifth year – their “super senior” year – that they spend at TCS. From day one of freshman year, the program is about being successful in college. Students who come prepared and who work hard can start taking classes as early as the first semester of their junior year. Freshman and sophomore year are spent getting ready to pass the Ohio Graduation Tests and to succeed at the college level.
TCS is a public charter: a public school, but one that operates under a charter. This allows it to do some things that traditional public schools can not, or do not do exclusively, such as focus on college-readiness and college success. Because TCS is a public school, the staff does not pick and choose students; any student who applies is accepted as long as space is available. If a student wants to go to college, we will get him or her ready to go, regardless of where that student is academically when he or she starts at TCS.
One of the groups that TCS staff work with is first-generation college goers—students who are (or will be) the first in their family to attend college. Unsurprisingly, many ELL students fall into this category. About 5% of the 400 students at TCS are either currently ELL or previously were ELL but have placed out. The largest group is Somali and East African, but the Hispanic population is growing. One reason why I love my job so much is that I get to work with ELLs who want to go to college. I get to help them be successful and move a step closer to reaching their dreams.
I am proud that ODU, a school many of us know well, is working with TCS to provide college experience to students, especially some who may not otherwise have been able to go to college at all. TCS should be better known in Columbus, but especially among the Ohio Dominican community. I expect that as TCS graduates more students and as word of our program filters out, some other great partnership will become the best kept secret at ODU.
The facts are accurate to the best of my knowledge, and the opinions are solely my own. – CS