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WCCCD’s Dual Enrollment Program helps Celia Luna jumpstart successful career

Celia Luna works with students   COURTESY PHOTOS

Celia Luna works with students COURTESY PHOTOS

Southwest Detroit native gives back by teaching at Western International High School, where she first participated in the dual enrollment program

By David C. Butty

You do the math and you don’t have to be a genius like Celia Luna, an instructor in algebra, to figure this out. The economic doldrums and the skyrocketing costs of higher education is forcing many families to encourage their children to take advantage of dual credit, concurrent enrollment or joint enrollment — whichever name you choose — programs. These all allow students to earn college credits while finishing up their high school coursework.

For example, the average cost at Michigan’s public four-year colleges is about $7,020 per year in tuition, and up to $11,528 on average for full-time out-of-state-students. Private four-year colleges on average charge up to $26,273 per year in tuition and fees, according to data from the Michigan Education Tuition Comparison.

To help her family save money on education and jumpstart her career, Luna, then a student at Western International High School, enrolled in the Wayne County Community College District’s Dual Enrollment Program to save money and cut down on her pre-requisites. “It was cost-saving. Imagine graduating from high school with a diploma in one hand and transferable college credits in the other hand,” Luna said.

“When I graduated high school, with Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment credits for college, I saved almost $9,000 in tuition costs. I started dual enrollment as a senior and took online classes so that I could do work at home, at school, and on-the-go yet not feel left behind.”

Today, Luna is reaping the fruit of her dual enrollment with WCCCD. She received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Detroit-Mercy, and currently enrolled in a hybrid master’s program at Eastern Michigan University.

At 23, the Southwest Detroit native is giving back to her community. She is now teaching math at the same high school that encouraged her to take advantage of the Dual Enrollment Program. “I am now a Detroit Public School teacher at Western International High School where I teach Algebra 1 and I help coach the robotics team,” Luna said with pride.

“I also am sponsor to the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Jr. Chapter and partner with the University of Michigan School of Engineering to maintain and promote the SHPE Jr. Program. My passion for teaching comes from being part of a big family of educators. My mother is an assistant superintendent for Detroit Public Schools (DPS) and has motivated me to achieve and take advantage of every opportunity possible. She has also taught me to take pride in where I come from, the Southwest Detroit Community. It gives me great joy to give back to my community as a teacher because I see myself in so many of my students. I feel that had I not been a DPS student, I would not be where I am today.”

Participating in dual enrollment while in high school translates to graduating early and saving thousands of dollars. The District, in collaboration with area high schools, has been addressing the need for more college- and employment-ready high school students to enroll in the dual-enrollment programs as an effective vehicle for building a workforce with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a 21st century economy. Today, the District has dual enrollment partnerships with every area high school and the student participation is growing.

“Our dual-enrollment program allows high school students to jump-start their postsecondary education and career by enrolling in college courses before they graduate, earning both high school and college credits in the process,” said Brian Singleton, WCCCD’s vice chancellor for student services. “The program allows students to complete their course load for a fraction of the cost of today’s college tuition.” Singleton added that the Dual Enrollment Program “gives students a head start in today’s competitive job market and a college degree today is increasingly becoming a critical factor in attaining career success.”

“Studies show that in 2018, approximately 63 percent of the 47 million U.S. jobs will require workers with some postsecondary education. Our Dual Enrollment Program provides high school students with an effective on-ramp to college and career success, helping to close the gap between students’ knowledge and the skills needed to achieve professional success in a globally competitive economy,” Singleton added.

Luna could not have agreed more, citing the easier transition to a four-year university. “Dual enrollment helped me complete college in four years and gave me a head start at completing pre-requisite courses that were required to obtain my degree in mathematics. It was important for me to take advantage of dual enrollment because I attended a very expensive university. With a full four-year scholarship, I could not afford to pay for a fifth year of classes. Dual enrollment not only offered the opportunity to obtain college credit while in high school, it also offered classes at no cost, and shorten the time to get a degree.”

She is also thankful for the Dual Enrollment Program at WCCCD. “I talk to my students about the importance of taking their academics seriously because I want to see them achieve their long-term goals. I tell my students to take advantage of dual enrollment so that their transition to college will be easier, mentally and financially. I had always been very motivated to go to college but dual enrollment afforded me the experience of taking a college course and having to prioritize my time.

“I would like to thank WCCCD for being part of this journey and encourage anyone who reads this to please take advantage of dual enrollment — you will not be sorry!”

David C. Butty is executive dean for International Programs/Media Specialist at Wayne County Community College District. His column appears in the Michigan Citizen monthly.

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