For many high school students, concurrent enrollment is an amazing opportunity to gain college credits. For students itching to make their way into college, it can be their entrance ticket. Concurrent enrollment is a great way to get ahead, however, it is more complex than stacking up credits. As a woman of color, concurrent enrollment was certainly beneficial for me, but the program available severely lacked in preparing for my intended career. And, it did not offer an opportunity to engage in culturally-responsive learning opportunities.
As a Hinkley High School student I was eager to attend a university and jumped at the opportunity to take college classes while in high school. My interests lied in the social sciences sector, but I was taking concurrent enrollment classes in history, language, and math. Concurrent enrollment classes were great for getting general education courses out of the way before starting college. In fact, it allowed me to start college as a sophomore. I was able to get most of my general education requirements met before starting my college career. As a first-generation student, that made me very proud.
No doubt, the program has been a blessing for me.
However, for students like me who want to explore both their college academic interests as well as their culture and identity, something was missing. As a Latina I also wanted to take classes in which I could learn more about issues relevant to me and my history beyond Hispanic Heritage Month or even Women’s History Month. All year round I wanted to learn about my identity and my history that was redacted from all the classes I had taken in the past.
Although history courses were offered, they weren’t culturally relevant, which can be a challenge for students from diverse backgrounds. In some cases, it can even cause students’ performance to decline.
Research indicates that an achieved ethnic identity is positively correlated with academic and career confidence. One article suggests:
“Students with higher levels of ethnic identity also have better reasoning ability and higher academic grades. Other research shows that individuals with an achieved ethnic identity have more positive self-esteem, have better psychological health, and most important, have better coping skills to deal with racism.”
As a Latina who has experienced few opportunities to develop my own ethnic identity while in a diverse high school, I would argue that there needs to be more of a connection to identity within the material taught in concurrent enrollment offerings.
In doing so, students of color are better prepared for success in the higher education system due to having a better understanding of one’s own identity.
As a future Latina marriage and family therapist and author, I hope that high schools expand their concurrent enrollment offerings to give students of color the opportunity to develop higher levels of ethnic identity prior to attending an institution of higher education.
Concurrent enrollment is an important experience for high school students, but the system needs to diversify its course offerings to better serve all students, especially those from diverse backgrounds.
Joselin Rivera currently attends Colorado State University and is majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Prevention and Intervention Studies as well as English. She is an intern with Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism where she uses her voice to benefit her community and those awaiting societal change.