When Newberry High School senior Sam Massey graduates, he’ll have 49 college credit hours. He’ll enter college that fall as a second-semester sophomore.
Massey has spent his high school years dually enrolled at Mid Michigan Community College, taking classes like Algebra, Calculus, and Intro to Probability and Statistics.
He’s very smart – he took the ACT twice and got a score of 33 out of 36 both times – and he’s using dual enrollment to save money.
“I realized I was poor, and college is expensive,” Massey said.
He also took AP courses and, after passing those exams, earned additional credit hours that way.
His first college class, taken when he was a freshman in high school, was Stress Management.
That’s what NHS Student Counselor Kristi Palmer recommends as a first course, because it’s doubly helpful – it helps them dip a toe in the college scene and teaches them how to react to the added stress.
The state of Michigan allows high schoolers to take up to 12 college courses during their high school years. Students can take one college course per semester when they’re in grades 9 and 10. In 11th and 12th grades, they can take two college courses per semester. If they always take the maximum amount offered, they will graduate high school with about 36 credit hours. The students must also complete the required high school curriculum, which can be quite a juggling act when it comes to fitting it all in.
The college courses are funded by Tahquamenon Area Schools. Superintendent Stacey Price said the district pays about $50,000 each year for students taking college courses. It sounds like a big deal, and it is.
Students who want to go to college can use dual enrollment to test it out in a no-cost, penalty-free setting. They can explore classes that interest them. They also get a look at the difference between college level courses and high school, which can be stunning.
Twelfth grader Jack Hetrick has taken seven college courses while at NHS, including Intro to Philosophy and Intro to Anthropology.
“If you put in the effort, study, and read the book, it’s not so bad,” he said.
Julia Seitz, also in grade 12, has been dually enrolled since she was in 9th grade. She has completed college classes including Abnormal Psychology, Cultural Anthropology, and Issues in Western Civilization.These classes are a whole lot different than a typical high school course, but Seitz manages to blur the lines between high school and college.
“I don’t see it as, ‘These are my college classes, and these are my high school classes,’” she said. “I view it as, ‘This is the work I need to get done this week.”At first, Seitz said college felt scary. “College is very different from high school,” she said. “But it’s like a normal class. Just a little more difficult and tedious.”
Seitz has done very well in both high school and college. She will graduate from high school with honors and enough college credit to enter undergraduate school as a sophomore. She’s determined to be a veterinarian and will be attending Northern Michigan University. One day, she may practice animal medicine nearby.
There’s a small trade-off that Seitz and Massey don’t seem to care about: they don’t have a lot of time to do other things. They don’t play many sports or spend a great amount of time doing extracurricular activities. But they do still have time for their friends, most of whom are also dual enrollment students.
This modified high school experience seems to please them. Massey says he still feels like a kid. “I’m a kid and I love it,” he said. “Being an adult is not fun and I’m going to be a kid as long as I can.”
Ambitious about everything, Massey is pursuing full-ride scholarships at several universities and will go to whichever school brings him the best offer. There, he will study electrical engineering. He wants to fight climate change and convert power grids to sustainable alternatives. Then – yes, there’s more – he wants to return to our area and launch recycling plants that actually recycle materials instead of ship them overseas.
“That’s something the world is going to need,” he said.Inspired by teachers like Mr. Puckett and Mr. Griffis, Massey said high school has made the best of him.“Mr. Griffis gave me a sense of being responsible,” he said. “He taught me what it was to make something out of my life.”
Newberry High School is what you make of it, Massey said. “If you came here to get ready for your future, you will.”