High school kids ace Early College

By Matt Phillips
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

The kids at Josephine Dobbs Clement Early College don’t mess around. They handle academic business. Their high school — part of the Durham Public School System — is situated in the Robinson Science Building at N.C. Central University. The school is a finalist for the National Excellence in Urban Education Award.

Simone Fogg, Jose Esteban and Brianna Pearson are finishing high school and getting half of their college education under their belts at the Josephine Clement Dobbs Early College High School on NCCU’s campus. (Staff photo by Matt Phillips)

Brianna Pearson, an Early College senior, already knows what she will do after graduating from college. “I would like to do computer or electrical engineering,” Pearson said. She is knocking out a Calculus II course in preparation.

Early College senior Jose Esteban also is taking Calculus II. Esteban said he wants to enter the bio-medical field so he can “improve medical technology in general.”

While the curriculum focus is science and math, not all Early College students are traveling this academic trajectory.

Symone Fogg is headed for the art and design world. Fogg said her goals revolve around entrepreneurship and graphic design.

“It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do,” said Fogg, a 17-year-old. The main advantage of Early College at NCCU is simple. Pearson, Esteban and Fogg already have finished the NCCU General Education Course requirements.

In effect, depending on where they decide to attend college, all three will enter college as juniors. “Once they graduate they can go on to the major courses,” said Carmen Dorsey, NCCU Early College liaison.

“They’ve gotten general courses out of the way.” Early College opened during the 2004 academic year with initial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, New Schools Project and others.

NCCU was the first university in the UNC system to host such a program. NCCU’s inaugural class of 84 students has bloomed to a current enrollment of more than 300.

The school is named in honor of the late Josephine Dobbs Clement, a dedicated social activist and a long time civil servant and a key figure in the desegregation of Durham area schools.

Prospective students must submit an application, middle school academic transcripts and three letters of recommendation.

According to Dorsey the school reaches into a pool of students who are otherwise underserved. The intent is to engage students ordinarily unable to afford college.

“It is a rigorous course structure. It does work, if you can engage these students,” said Dorsey. Pearson, Esteban and Fogg are certainly engaged. Each has gained valuable knowledge about college.

For Pearson the experience solidified her connection to the community.

“We had to go to cultural events,” she said. “That opened me up to the community. You should open yourself, embrace things that go on around us.”

Esteban noted that he has learned the importance of planning. “I’m more of a last-minute person,” he said. “I learned a few lessons doing projects and assignments. You can’t do that stuff last minute.”

Fogg stressed the value of independence, citing the uncharacteristic autonomy granted Early College students.

“Starting your junior year, you’re much more independent and accountable for your success,” said Fogg. About half of NCCU’s Early College students end up attending NCCU.