Buffalo ECHS Students Make a Strong Case

Principal Susan Doyle, BECHS Students meet the Trustees

Principal Susan Doyle, BECHS Students meet the Trustees

Economic realities have changed since the Early College movement started in the late 1990s. Easy partnerships between school districts and colleges, with shared vision and resources, have come under the knife as space means dollars and state and federal funding sources have shied away from paying for tuition, textbooks, and the necessary supports to help struggling students. With these cutbacks many of MCNC early and middle college high schools have seen diminished course opportunities for students, and some have had to fight to remain on the college campus itself. We have watched as one early colleges in Orange County closed and in Memphis, Tennessee moved from campus to campus to remain a viable institution. Now Buffalo Early College High School is struggling to remain on the campus of Erie Community College at least till it can negotiate a firm MOU with SUNY to find a permanent home.

BECHS, which serves students in grades 9-13 and opened in 2003, has moved changed locations several times, despite its recognition for success. The school is a recipient of a Smart Scholars Grant from New York State. Through the Smart Scholars Early College High School Program, institutions of higher education (IHEs) partner with public school districts to create early college high schools that provide students with the opportunity and preparation to accelerate the completion of their high school studies while earning a minimum of twenty but up to sixty transferable college credits at the same time.
This program is targeted to students who are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education. Students receive additional academic support from the school/college partnerships to ensure they are at grade level and ready to participate in rigorous high school and collegiate courses. This “dual or concurrent enrollment” program serves to increase high school graduation and college completion rates, while reducing student tuition costs as a result of the compressed time needed to complete a college degree.

BECHS students fit the profile of most urban adolescents. They enter the school with a multitude concerns ranging from poverty, single parent homes, neighborhood violence and weak academic preparation. Yet an overwhelming number of students find success and new hope at BECHS. They form closeknit peer groups with similar academic goals, support through hard working, dedicated teachers and real opportunities for challenge and career preparation. The proposed relocation of the school adds additional challenges that may be too difficult to overcome. If they are moved to the off campus location they will share space with a 5th-8th grade school. Their schedule will not align with the college schedule, making attendance and on time arrival difficult for seniors registered for college classes. The distance between the proposed site and the college is at least fifteen minutes away and requires a car or bus for transport.

There have been many meetings with parents since the school was informed they would have to move. At this time parents are optimistic that the Board will rescind the decision to move the school and grant a stay of one year to find permanent space.

In early June as all hope was fading, Principal Susan Doyle was invited to attend a meeting of the Board of Trustees with four Buffalo Early College Students to plead their case for an extension of temporary housing on the ECC campus
Andrea Mulkey, invited Ms. Doyle and the students to speak to the Board of Trustees at a meeting to discuss grades 6-16 initiatives by virtue of their extraordinary performance in the program. Ms. Doyle shared the latest NCREST data with the panel demonstrating the high rate of success her students had in college classes and four students spoke.

The students included two 12th graders, Khollin Buchanan and Jessica McAdory, a fifth year student, Xaviera Ashley, who is currently taking classes at the community college and will attend University of Buffalo next year and Cordell Torres, an alumnus who is entering his senior year at Brockport and is on the Deans List. The students were able to speak from the diverse layers within this successful program; the struggles, support and accomplishment students who are at the school experience, the preparation and confidence that is built when students straddle between high school and college and the discipline and control they have developed as they transfer to 4 year colleges with half their credits completed.

Xaviera said:

“Middle college has taught me how to think critically, and solve problems. The program has also given me career options by walking me through degree possibilities. The faculty and staff have assisted me through the entire process and for that I am most grateful. If it had not been for their dedication to the students and program, I believe that I wouldn’t be in the great place that I am right now. Middle college assures educational stability. It taught me how to not only set a goal but how to achieve it. The program instilled a sense of maturity within myself. It assured in me not only academic structure but also confidence. This program has been a huge part of my journey in education and life.”

Cordell, the current University of Buffalo student, speaking of the personal relationships that are developed in a small, intimate setting focused on academic performance, added, “It’s not every day where people step in and help you stay on the right track when outside issues conflict heavily with school. I’m very thankful for the people who surrounded me and the staff that helped me get where I’m at today.”

When asked for recommendations about expanding or supporting middle and early college programs, Principal Doyle advocated putting an Early College in each district. The Chancellor said, “You are amazing. Your kids are amazing. This is what the audience needed to hear.”

Needless to say, Ms. Doyle was on point when she said, “The students tell the real story.” Let’s hope it is heard loud and clear.