Unaka receives $56K grant to start several Advanced Placement courses

Published 12:05 am Friday, May 15, 2015

Even as this school year winds down, school officials at Unaka High School have their eyes on next year and some exciting changes coming to the school.
Unaka High recently won a $56,000 grant from the Niswonger Foundation to help the school bolster its academic programs by adding Advanced Placement courses.
“We’ve had dual enrollment, but we’ve never had AP courses before,” Unaka High Principal Betsy Oliver said.
AP courses allow high school students to take advanced classes and earn college credits while still in high school.
Beginning next school year, eligible students can earn AP course hours in chemistry, biology, English and history, Oliver said.
“They can earn over 30 hours of college credit without ever leaving Unaka High School,” she said. “That is the equivalent of one year of college.”
The grant will provide the school with $56,000 worth of equipment and textbooks to get the AP courses up and running. The grant will also allow the school to purchase the college level text books for the program so the students and their families do not have that expense placed on them.
“A tremendous amount of the money will go to the science department for biology and chemistry lab upgrades,” Oliver said.
In addition to the money to purchase equipment and text books, the Niswonger Foundation is also providing additional funds to pay for teacher training for the AP courses, Oliver said.
“The teachers have been wonderful,” Oliver said. “They are giving up a week of their summer vacation without getting paid so they can go to the training to help the students. I just think that is so admirable.”
The addition of AP courses has also drawn lots of support from the students as well as the staff.
“The kids are excited because they can see how this is going to benefit them,” Oliver said. “And their families are excited because they can see the savings this will be for them.”
Oliver praised the Niswonger Foundation for its gift to the school.
“They have been very receptive to anything we have needed,” she said. “This is a gift we desperately needed.”
Even with the addition of the AP courses, Oliver said the school will continue to offer its dual enrollment program through Northeast State Community College.
In addition to changes in the college path for students next year, Oliver said there will also be changes coming for those students on the career and technical education path.
“Our CTE classes are going to have work-based learning for our seniors,” she said.
Students in the health occupations classes will be going through clinicals at local health care facilities, students in the human services program will go through food-based classes at local restaurants and students in the agricultural program will be given the opportunity to work on a local farm in the community, Oliver said, adding students in the auto body repair program will continue getting their hands on learning through the program at the school.
The CTE program are an option for students who feel they may not fit the traditional college plan or who have career goals that require a technical education, Oliver said.
“We’re trying to not put our kids in a mold, but rather give them options,” she said.
Having the chance to work hands on in a field they are interested in can help the students decide if that is really the career path they want to follow, Oliver said.

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