Dr. Quentin R. Johnson: Early college classes can be a benefit

Published 6:09 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

The U.S. Department of Education reports that students who earn college credits before high school graduation reap numerous benefits. These include an increased likelihood of college graduation, a reduced average time to obtain a college degree, and significant savings on tuition and other expenses.

Southside Virginia Community College works hand-in-hand with the school districts across our service area to bring a slate of options to area high-school students. One of the most immersive and challenging opportunities is the Governor’s School of Southside Virginia (GSSV), an academic-year program that enables gifted and highly motivated juniors and seniors to spend half of each school day with their peers in a college campus setting.

Virginia’s Governor’s School Program originated in 1973, and today it has expanded to more than 40 sites. Some focus exclusively on summer programming. GSSV is one of 19 that operate through the full academic year. Enrolled students spend part of their day at one of SVCC’s main campuses and then return to their local high schools for other required programming. Upon successful completion, students receive an Associate’s degree from SVCC in addition to receiving a high school diploma from their local school.

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GSSV students participate in a learning community with an intensity that goes deeper than traditional education. Mrs. Wesley Swain, Director, notes that students “follow a rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum in science, math, English, and research courses. They use current technologies in laboratories where they conduct in-depth research and work with each other on special projects. They also benefit from the real-world experiences shared by local business and industry leaders who assist with research projects and serve as mentors and examples.”

Each of the ten public school divisions in SVCC’s service area that participate in the Governor’s School of Southside Virginia hosts its own recruitment meeting for prospective students and their parents. SVCC’s two main campuses also hold “GSSV Shadowing Days” for interested students. These events allow students the opportunity to travel to campus, participate in classes, and experience a GSSV day. Interested students should seek specific scheduling details from their school counselors.

In general, admission requirements include an overall cumulative 3.5 GPA (or recommendation from at least one core teacher who feels the student would qualify, except for unusual situations or conditions) and the successful completion of Algebra I and II and geometry for junior level students.

Potential students should remember that GSSV courses at SVCC’s campuses are college classes, not simply high school classes held in a college setting. They include college-level content and are taught by instructors who have the degrees and credentials to teach at a community college. Upon successful completion, students receive high school credit as well as college credit, which becomes part of their permanent college transcripts.

For more information about the benefits and challenges of this program for gifted and highly motivated high school juniors and seniors, prospective students can visit the GSSV website at gssvsouthside.org or contact the GSSV Director, Mrs. Swain, at wesley.swain@southside.edu.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.