Kayleigh Artiga, a junior at Penta Career Center, said her parents are raising four children in their Genoa home on one salary, which meant she wasn't sure whether she would be able to afford college.
Now, after a dual enrollment program between Penta and Owens Community College was announced today, giving her the opportunity to earn free college credits, Kayleigh's goals of working in the medical radiology or neurology fields are more achievable than ever.
"It's a big thing financially and personally for me," said the 15-year-old student in Penta's medical and legal office management program.
She and classmates Michael Jablonowski, from the Perrysburg school district, and Zach Reecer, of Anthony Wayne, witnessed top officials from the Perrysburg Township schools sign the agreement.
Mike Bower, president of Owens, said the 445 Penta students who already have applied for dual enrollment were setting an example for their peers.
"Other students will see that and learn from them that this is something positive," he said.
Penta students on campus and at satellite locations at area high schools can earn up to 17 college credits in their career technology courses. About 80 percent of the school's tech programs are part of the enrollment initiative, which has another benefit besides saving time and money, said Penta curriculum supervisor Suzie Short.
"The confidence building that this affords students is immeasurable," she said.
The amount of credits students can earn depends on the class. Two courses - construction carpentry or electricity - are worth six credits, while 11 credits can be earned in four courses of marketing. The automotive technology program offers the highest amount, 17 credits over six courses.
Zach, a junior in that auto program, said he needed every advantage he could get in his field. "Technology changes and gets bigger and better every day," he said.
Ms. Short emphasized that a valuable aspect of these credits were that they are "transcripted" credits, which mean they can be applied to any higher education institution that will accept them.
"It is our hope that they will use them at Owens Community College," Penta Superintendent Ronald Matter said.
Mr. Matter said Penta had been formulating the dual enrollment initiative for the past several years. He asked Mr. Bower about it when he was among three candidates being considered for the Owens presidency, and they were able to start hammering out the agreement by mid-July.
"I love innovation," Mr. Bower said.
He said that while he had been president of Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, N.D., there were 52 schools with dual enrollment partnerships, but nothing of the magnitude of the agreement with Penta.
Mr. Matter said the next step would be getting college credit agreements in place for Penta's academic courses like math and for a few other career technology courses like agriculture and environmental systems.
He said that he would welcome pacts with other schools, but Owens was a natural fit.
"They are our next-door neighbor," he said.
Penta has about 1,400 students, some of whom participate in a dual enrollment plan with Northwest State.
To participate in the Owens enrollment program, students must be enrolled in a junior- or senior-level program, maintain a C average, and have a good record of attendance and discipline.
Ms. Short said Penta staff would evaluate the students on competency and learning outcomes as to whether they truly "earned" the college credit.
Michael, a senior in the computer hardware and technology program, said earning college credit while he was completing his secondary studies was a huge time-saver.
"These credits mean a lot to me. ... The quicker I can get through college and into the work force, the better off I'll be," he said.
Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at email@example.com or 419-356-8786.