Agreements were finalized Thursday evening between North Adams Community Schools and Ivy Tech Community College and IPFW as one of the final steps necessary to transform Bellmont High School into one of the few Early College High Schools in the state of Indiana.
A brief ceremony was held in the school district's administrative office as officials from Ivy Tech and the Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne campus signed a Memorandum Of Understanding to accept college credits earned by students at Bellmont.
Under the Early College concept, students have the opportunity to graduate from high school with either an associate's degree or two years of college credit toward a bachelor's degree already under their belts.
Schools that receive the designation are authorized to provide course work which allows students to simultaneously earn their high school diploma and college credits equivalent to an associate's degree. The credits are transferable to nearly every college and university in Indiana.
Pending final endorsement from CELL — the Center for Excellence in Leadership of Learning — Bellmont will become the fourth fully endorsed Early College in the state of Indiana and the only Early College outside of Marion County.
Speaking during the Thursday night ceremony was Larry Macklin, director of the Adams County Economic Development Corporation. Macklin called the partnership between the local high school and the institutions of higher learning "a great initiative that is indeed good news for this community."
"This country has always been a world leader in educational opportunities, and this initiative has put us in the right direction. Higher education benefits our society as well as those who pursue it," Macklin said. "When our education system succeeds, so does our economy."
Macklin said statistics show that 33 percent of current job openings in northeast Indiana require a college degree. "And our greatest challenge is making sure that high school graduates are ready for college. Now, local officials have stepped up to the plate to provide new and exciting opportunities for our students."
Officials from Ivy Tech and IPFW praised both North Adams Superintendent of Schools Wylie Sirk and Bellmont High School Principal Scot Croner for their efforts to gain Early College status for the local school.
"The need to establish educational programs and partnerships has never been greater," said Croner. "In the past, our education system was designed to efficiently filter students to college or non-skilled occupations. However, in today’s new global economy, this system is not designed to meet the expectations of the new millennium.
"The partnership established today by our institutions is creating an innovative approach to meeting the demands of the future of education. By blending secondary and post-secondary education with the academic supports of the Early College program, we are insuring that northeastern Indiana will have an abundance of our most vital resource – a well educated student population.
"On behalf of the students, staff, and community of Bellmont Early College, we wish to thank our Dual Credit partners for this opportunity to expand our dual credit offerings through the collaborative efforts of your institutions," Croner said.
Jerrilee Mosier, chancellor at Ivy Tech, called the agreement with Bellmont High School a "launching pad" for future student success.
"This is a phenomenal way we can assist students in this community, and we are so pleased to be a part of this endeavor," Mosier said.
"Congratulations to the whole Decatur area for its progressive thinking," added Mark Franke, associate vice chancellor at IPFW.
Also on hand for the ceremony was State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle.
"What a proud moment for Bellmont High School," the legislator said. "What a great day. You folks are a shining star in this area, and hopefully others will follow your example."