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GISD's first Early College High School students make history by earning associate’s degrees

May 12, 2022

ECHS Grad Story

Four years ago, a trailblazing group of eighth-graders signed up to be the first Early College High School (ECHS) class in GISD. Tomorrow night, they will walk across the stage at Paris Junior College and graduate to accept their associate’s degrees in Engineering and Multidisciplinary Studies.  

The 13 ECHS graduates are going on to pursue careers ranging from civil engineering to computer science and the fine arts. 

Graduate Jenny Gonzalez will be studying civil engineering and computer science at the University of Texas-Austin. 

“I really like Austin and walking around the U.T. campus,” she said. “It’s so, so big, so I immediately started looking for cool places where it’s quiet.” 

Being a trailblazer came with a price, Jenny said, “but it was really, really worth it.” 

“I wanted to take yearbook and photography and other electives, and we let our chancellor know, and they listened to us and have made adjustments for the classes behind us. But, honestly, I don’t know where I would have found the time for more classes and activities. Our schedule is so packed. Also, we had to do so much online because of COVID. It was a challenge, for sure.” 

Fellow ECHS graduate Ashton Brown is ready to dive into studies in the fine arts and computer game development at the University of Tulsa. 

“The two go together for me. I can’t wait to get started,” he said. “I want to take art so I can experiment with mediums I don’t have access to. I really like open-world games, and I’d like to create interactive story games that allow you to have an impact on what happens next.” 

Ashton said at first, he wanted to take a breather after the demanding workload he’d undertaken in ECHS.  

“Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to college, but Tulsa offered me a really generous scholarship, and that changed my mind. Now, I’m looking forward to sitting outside in the atrium and doing my art,” he said. 

Early College High School Chancellor DeAndre Carter described the academic workload as “intense as it gets. We’re talking pre-calculus, calculus 1, 2 and 3 and differential equations.”  

“When we select our Early College High School students, we test their aptitude, and we know they have the ability to take on the challenge,” he said. “Starting their sophomore year, they’re taking college coursework, and they even have to take math over the summer so they can complete their degree. That’s why we have study periods, AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) and other support systems in place for them.” 

After taking on college coursework, dealing with COVID and blazing the trail for other students, Jenny says it’s hard to believe graduation day is almost here. 

“I’m really, really proud to say I’m going to be the first in my family to graduate from college and that I'm in the first group of Greenville High School students to graduate with an associate’s degree,” she said. “Just seeing two caps and gowns hanging in my closet, it’s really hitting me that it’s real.”