Petal students get a head start at PRCC with Bridge Program

By HASKEL BURNS,

Thanks to a partnership between Petal High School and Pearl River Community College, 10 Petal 11th-graders are getting the opportunity for a head start on their college career in the schools’ Bridge Program.

Under the new program, the students will spend their junior and senior years taking classes at PRCC’s Hattiesburg campus. At the end of their senior year, the cohort will graduate with both a high school diploma from Petal and an associate’s degree from PRCC, with two years of college under their belt.

The program is made possible with the collaboration of officials from the Petal School District, PRCC President Adam Breerwood and Jana Causey, who serves as PRCC’s vice president for Forrest County Operations.

“With our great working relationship with Pearl River Community College, we wanted to collaborate to give students another opportunity,” said Matt Dillon, superintendent of the Petal School District. “This is a very unique opportunity, but it’s not for everybody.

“But it is a great way for somebody who might want to potentially go into the medical field and spend 10 years in college to get where they need to be and get a head start on that. Or they might want to get a PhD, or they might just want to go ahead and move forward with that college experience and get those two years knocked out.”

Students begin the day by arriving at the high school campus in the morning, at which point they’re bussed to PRCC for a full slate of classes. After lunch, the group is returned back to the high school.

“After they finish their course work and we bus them back to school, they can stay there and we provide them with assistance,” Dillon said. “We have computer lab access so they can get their homework done, and they can get whatever else they might need.

“It’s really unique and very innovative, and I’m excited for this first group to do this in our district.”

The group will still take U.S. History – which is mandated for a state test – at the high school, along with any extra courses they are interested in. Participants also are eligible for all extracurricular activities at the high school.

“Any other classes they want to take are just at their choosing, if they want to take an elective, or if they want to take a specific athletic class or work class,” Dillon said. “But they’re getting a full college schedule, and they’re getting high school credits and college credits in a dual-enrollment capacity at the same time.”

Dillon said so far, the students have taken well to the Bridge Program.

“We’re going to have quarterly breakfasts with them, and we just had our first breakfast with the students that are participating,” he said. “It’s just great to hear the differences between being on a college campus versus being on a traditional high school campus, and what they experienced their freshman and sophomore years at the high school.

“It’s just little things such as how you have to follow your planner very closely, get your syllabus and you have to make sure you get your stuff turned in on time. They talked about the operational side, where in between classes they’ve had a little bit more down time. It’s all positive information that they shared with us.”

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