Crothersville graduate shares impact of early college program

In May 2019, Torri Boldery will receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hanover College.

What will make her stand out is it only took her three years to achieve.

She has the Austin Crothersville Early College Initiative to thank for that.

The program allows students at Crothersville and Austin high schools to take dual-credit courses taught by qualified high school teachers and professors from Ivy Tech Community College. They receive an associate degree in general studies after earning at least 60 credit hours.

In the past six years, 47 Crothersville students have received degrees. By doing so, they spend a year or two less and save tens of thousands of dollars in earning a higher college degree.

“I wish everyone had the opportunity to do it,” Boldery said. “It has helped so much, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity because it was just the right place, right time.”

At one point, Boldery said she was thinking of going to a career and technical school while she was in high school. Then Principal David Schill encouraged her to enroll in the early college program.

In the 2006-07 school year, the state began requiring high schools to offer some type of dual-credit program.

Schill and Superintendent Terry Goodin talked to Ivy Tech officials and felt it was the best program because it’s free for the students. The school pays an annual fee of about $14,000 to cover the costs of Ivy Tech professors, but the school board always has approved it because the members see the value in the program.

Crothersville and Ivy Tech officials decided an associate degree in general studies would work best because regardless of what a student studies in college, all of the dual-credit classes they took in high school would count for something at the next level.

The program began at Crothersville seven years ago, but those seniors couldn’t earn a degree. They only were able to earn some additional dual-credit courses to carry into college.

Since then, Crothersville and Austin students have been able to earn associate degrees.

The 2015-16 school year marked the first time sophomores could apply, giving students more time to earn their credits and not have to compact classes on top of their high school subjects.

Applications are accepted after the school year starts. Students then have to pass the language arts and math portions of Ivy Tech’s ACCUPLACER entrance exam. If a student passes just one section, he or she can still take college classes and earn credits but won’t receive a degree. Instead, they would receive a technical certificate.

Students who complete the program can participate in Ivy Tech’s graduation a few weeks before they receive their high school diploma.

This school year at Crothersville, 10 sophomores, 11 juniors and nine seniors are enrolled in the program.

Schill retired in the summer of 2017, but his successor, Adam Robinson, has kept the program going at Crothersville. It’s one of the many college and career opportunities the school offers.

“If higher education is the pathway a student and their family wish to pursue, I feel we are a no-brainer,” he said. “Crothersville is able to offer an opportunity that isn’t offered at other schools. I don’t know if our students understand the value of getting two years of college for free. I truly believe that every parent in southern Indiana who sees their child going off to college or beyond should be banging on our door.”

Robinson said the program allows students to save money on college and enter the workforce earlier.

“Dr. Goodin, myself and all of the faculty at Crothersville pride ourselves on giving every child an opportunity to be successful, not just in school but beyond,” he said. “I am so grateful that I work in a school that values the needs of the children. Every school in America considers themselves to be child-centered. Crothersville Junior-Senior High School puts their money where their mouth is.”

Boldery said the early college classes felt like college-level courses.

“It was definitely more difficult, but it was more on your own. Your hand wasn’t being held,” she said. “You had to get deadlines finished, and it was very much like college.”

On top of that, Boldery participated in softball, cheerleading and cross-country.

In college, she also has been able to do extracurricular activities along with her studies. She is a student event photographer, was in a sorority, did some charity events and just joined the school’s new swim team.

Thanks to the early college program, she said she has been able to make the dean’s list every semester and maintain a 3.9 grade-point average.

She said some other Hanover students struggled transitioning to college. Some of her friends wound up on academic probation because they couldn’t pass a class, but she didn’t have to take it in college because it was a part of the early college program.

“I remember my freshman dorm at the beginning of the semester was completely full and you couldn’t find parking. By the end of the semester, there was nobody there,” she said. “It was because they were failing these science classes, and they were so hard, and I just didn’t have to do them because I had gotten them out of the way.”

Boldery said it also helped putting the early college program on her college and scholarship applications. She wound up earning several scholarships, which saved her even more money toward college expenses.

“My friends at college, they are like, ‘Man, I should have gone to Crothersville,’” Boldery said, smiling. “I got so far ahead of everything. It was a lot easier in college.”

The early college program also helped Boldery land a summer internship with Centerstone this year. That experience allowed her to see what a job in the psychology field will be like.

After graduating from Hanover, she plans to go to graduate school at Indiana University and work toward a master’s degree in criminal psychology. Her ultimate goal is to be a criminal profiler or work in counseling in prisons.

Seeing how the early college program has benefited her, Boldery encourages other students to follow suit.

“I have a lot of friends still in school (in Crothersville), and they are stressing, and I’m just like, ‘It pays off so much,’” she said. “I have friends that are 25 and just now getting their associate degree. Crothersville really helped me get a leg up, and I just know so many people that if they would have just gone to a different school, they wouldn’t have to be worried about finding the time to go to school now.”

Robinson said he likes hearing stories of former students and where they have found success.

“Torri is no different,” he said. “Her hard work both in and out of high school is nothing less than inspiring. She is a wonderful young lady and one Crothersville is very proud to have graced our hallways. As far as the early college program goes, it wasn’t shocking that it was a catalyst in helping a student like Torri.”

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For information about the Austin Crothersville Early College Initiative, call 812-793-2051.

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