Bellevue and Dayton, KY students excel in Gateway program!

by Jennifer Sierra

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Dayton and Bellevue High schools have had 1 semester under their belts with sending their students to Gateway Community College to earn college credits for classes taken at the college while simultaneously earning credit for their high school classes. “After 1 semester, we are really, really proud of the results,” said Bellevue superintendent, Robb Smith. There were about 40 juniors and seniors that participated in the program from Bellevue and 12 from Dayton High School. 1 sophomore from Bellevue qualified to participate in the program and is doing very well. She took the ACT as a freshmen. “I have challenged her to become the first Bellevue student to graduate with an Associate’s degree,” Smith said. “We have structured our budget so that we can cover the cost of all of this, the transportation, the tuition, the books.”

Instead of taking a class at Bellevue or Dayton, these kids are able to earn dual credits for the class by taking it at Gateway. The kids take the bus or drive to Gateway’s campus in Covington and must arrive by 8:30 a.m. There is a study hall for an hour before class and then their college class starts at 9:30. They return to the high school in the afternoon and finish the day at high school. Some kids are going to take classes during the summer too. That is what the sophomore from Bellevue is planning on doing with the hopes of obtaining that Associate’s degree. “We are saving the local families money. The participating juniors are going to graduate with almost their whole freshmen year of college paid for. They can continue at Gateway or transfer those credits to the school of their choice.” By outsourcing the English III and IV classes, they didn’t have to fill those teaching positions, which saves Bellevue Independent School District money. Bellevue didn’t have to fill an English, Social Studies, or Math teaching position so there was no change in operating cost for the school. “We were just allocating money in a different way. We just redistributed money already in our budget.”

Dayton Independent Schools Superintendent, Jay Brewer said, “Gateway has been such a great partner to work with. Our staff continues to step up to get the kids over there. We bus the kids over there. Hopefully, 20 kids participate next year.” There is some positive peer pressure to get into this program. According to Jay Brewer, 2 of Dayton’s junior students didn’t reach the ACT benchmark at the end of their sophomore year to get into the program. It has now made those students work harder so they can participate in the program next semester. Superintendent Jay Brewer said, “There is a cultural shift with college expectations. We are getting kids ready for college as young as middle school with reading stamina, speed and comprehension..”

The goal isn’t just to have these students earn college credits but acclimate them to what college classes are like and the higher expectations placed on them in college so they don’t have to go through the usual learning curve that can impact freshman college students negatively. “My number 1 goal is to create a culture where learning, knowledge, self-improvement and growth are important. Hopefully, we are sending a message to our kids that we believe in them and that knowledge is good.”

At the end of the first semester Bellevue had a “reflecting session” to ask the kids what they thought of the program and how the schools could improve on the program. One of the things discussed were the challenges the students had encountered during their time at Gateway. Superintendent Smith said, ‘The students weren’t used to the volume of work and the freedom to address that volume of work. The kids struggled a little with procrastinating. The other part we heard loud and clear was the ability to write. Many of our kids hadn’t been asked to write a 5 to 7 page paper on anything. Writing is a point of emphasis for us in our district.” In the end, the kids were really happy and felt better about themselves after going through this experience. “Many of them have become better at public speaking because of the classes they took. “After completing something of this magnitude, this has become a source of pride for many students,” stated Smith. “Looking at the 40 students that participated, only 1 doesn’t seem interested in going to college but we aren’t going to give up on that student.”




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