Over 20 EACC students graduate from Ivy Tech

Last Thursday, 22 students from the Elkhart Area Career Center walked in the Ivy Tech Community College graduation – over two weeks prior to graduating from high school. This is the second year for EACC students to walk with Ivy Tech through EACC’s Early College program.

“When you see them walk, it’s amazing to understand what they’ve accomplished in two short years,” says Elkhart Area Career Center education coordinator Brenda Emerson. “The stage is huge and there are thousands of people. It’s an invaluable experience for our students to see how important this is. We are so proud of their hard work.”

Elkhart Memorial senior Savannah Cash has already earned 51 college credits – only three classes shy of earning her Associate’s Degree from Ivy Tech. For Savannah, studying in the Early College program at the EACC has given her more experience than most high school students. “We were able to observe an anatomy and physiology lab, where they use cadavers. It was incredibly cool.” Savannah earned an Ivy Tech Technical Certificate in Health Support and is in the EMT program at the career center. She plans to continue her education at Baker College and pursue a degree in nursing.

For Mishawaka senior Jarod Down, who studies Automotive Service Technology at the EACC, the experience was also more hands-on than anything he would have experienced at his home school, which does not offer automotive classes. “This program provided me with the opportunity to earn ten ASE certifications, as well as work with vehicles hands-on and secure an internship. I definitely could not have learned everything I learned here anywhere else, and my internship experience really sets me apart from other job candidates.” Jarod is currently working at an internship at Gates Chevrolet, and has earned 27 college credits and an Ivy Tech certificate in Automotive Technology. He plans on continuing with the Army, then entering the workforce.

Concord senior Liliya Lozovskaya sees the Early College program at the EACC as a great opportunity to try something new, “The advice I would give to students is to not worry about failing. Many students think they can’t succeed in college, but you don’t know until you give it a try.” Liliya has earned 40 college credits, and plans to study radiology at Indiana University South Bend. She earned an Ivy Tech Technical Certificate in Health Support and is in the EMT program at the EACC.

“This is really a safe zone for students,” says Emerson. “They know us, they have amazing teachers, they live with their parents, and this is an ideal time for them to try something. If they fail, we talk about it and look at Plan B. But the reality is – so few fail because of the support offered here.”

That support includes an on-site coach from Ivy Tech, as well as a dean from Vincennes University – the two partnering colleges for EACC’s Early College program.

“I think one of the key aspects to the success of our students is the incredible teacher support,” says Emerson. “Students are choosing to come here and make the commitment. Teachers share in that high level of commitment, and all of them have stepped up majorly. By incorporating the Early College program into our EACC program, teachers have to structure their curriculum differently – they have to build in all the requirements from the accrediting college, plus we incorporate skills like 21st Century skills, and maintain a very high rigor of material. Plus, we provide students with the critical hands-on internships, job practicum, or work-study opportunities. We really see this as a stepping stone for our students, not an end point.”

The students who walked with Ivy Tech Community College through EACC’s Early College program last year would likely agree.

One of the students who graduated last year, Kayona Malone (Elkhart Memorial), has used her experience as a platform for her college education. “When I graduated from high school, I had 38 Ivy Tech college credits. The experience at the career center really helped me prepare for college – the teachers at the career center treat students like adults and the expectations are high, much like college.” Kayona began her post-secondary education as an Early Childhood major, but has since switched to Social Work. She plans on completing her Associate’s Degree at Ivy Tech, then transferring to IUSB for her Master’s degree in Social Work or Psychology. “The experience at the career center showed me that I definitely want to work with children, it helped grow my knowledge base, and helped show me all the possibilities.” Kayona’s skills, education, and experience gained at EACC helped her secure a position at Growing Kids after high school, and she is now in the process of helping Open Arms Childcare achieve full accreditation as a daycare.

Kayona was one of five students from the Elkhart Area Career Center who graduated with Technical Certificates from Ivy Tech last year. The other four were Yessinia Coronado (Goshen), Maria Hernandez-Davilla (Goshen), Mayra Castillo (Goshen), and Rebbecca Dobransky (Edwardsburg). All five earned Technical Certificates in Early Childhood Education.

The Elkhart Area Career Center offers three Early College programs through Ivy Tech Community College (Automotive Technology, Early Childhood, and Health Support) and five through Vincennes University (Cosmetology, Law Enforcement, Welding, Automotive Collision, Automotive Repair and Refinishing). This is the first year of accreditation with Vincennes University, and the career center is still a couple years away from fully incorporating the college curriculum into their programs.

Emerson is humble about her involvement in the great strides made in developing these programs and prefers to give credit to the team, but EACC director Dr. David Benak says she deserves much of the credit, “Brenda is the leading authority in dual credit, CTE Early College programs, and polytech institutes. She’s done amazing work for the EACC and the development of these programs.”

“We all work as a team, truly,” says Emerson. “The dedication and commitment from the teachers is matched by the support from administration – they support pursuing new programs, acquiring college-level text books, and equipment needed for college-level courses.”

But both Benak and Emerson have bigger goals, saying their goal is to eventually offer Early College programs through 100% of the EACC programs. Their goal is to have 40 students walk next year with Ivy Tech Community College, and to work more collaborative with sending schools to align offerings and schedules – potentially adding the option of earning an Associate’s Degree.

Student and car