Some Jay County High School students have gotten a jump-start on their college careers by taking dual-credit courses at the school.
The high school agricultural department offers two classes that give high school credit and college credit from Purdue University.
An advanced life sciences-animals course is being taught for the second year by teacher Melissa Muhlenkamp.
Muhlenkamp graduated from Wilmington College in Ohio and earned her master’s from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. She has a degree in agriculture with an agronomy concentration and a secondary education license along with a master’s in education.
To teach the class, a master’s degree or training from Purdue University is required. Even though Muhlenkamp already has her master’s, she also took the training offered from Purdue.
Three credits from Purdue are earned by taking the class with a cost of $96 per credit hour. Muhlenkamp said students who qualify for free and reduced lunches can take the college course at no cost and also the class can be taken for high school credit only.
Students may be more motivated to take a dual-credit class after learning that a report this year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue projects that more jobs in agriculture and related occupations will be added annually through 2015 than there will be qualified graduates.
“Taking a dual-credit course motivates students to think about going on to college and realize that they could actually succeed in college,” said John Graveel, interim associate dean of the Purdue University College of Agriculture and director of the college’s Office of Academic Programs.
The class offered at JCHS includes, “Lots of hands-on lab experience,” Muhlenkamp said. It teaches biology and chemistry and includes mitosis, osmosis, functions of bodies of animals, genetics, cells, reproduction, respiratory, heredity and DNA. Students have visited a local veterinarian and watched surgery being performed.
A total of 11 students have taken the class over the past two years, two the first year and nine students this school year. Muhlenkamp said, “I’ve had a lot of good feedback.”
Stephanie Schwieterman, a senior who has taken the class, plans to attend Purdue and study veterinary medicine. “It was very interesting. I enjoyed it. I learned a lot,” Schwieterman said of the class. They tested for germs, dissected a rabbit and pig’s ovaries and studied jellyfish. Stephanie learned about tools and procedures and how important it is to know the correct spelling of terms.
“That was an eye opener for me,” Stephanie said and confessed that she is a terrible speller.
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“I would recommend it to anybody” (that is going to college to work with animals), she said.
Another former student, Kendra Younger, said of the class, “It was awesome. This one was really fun. We had lots of labs.” Younger enjoyed studying starfish and jellyfish.
Another teacher in the ag department at the high school, Brittany Bridges, plans to teach advanced life sciences-plants. Bridges majored in agriculture education and minored in horticulture at Purdue University. Last year there weren’t enough students for her to teach the class, but she hopes there will be in the future since Muhlenkamp’s classes have been a success.
Muhlenkamp said students must pass a final exam to receive college credit for the course. She administers the exam, which consists of 50 questions on any topic from the class, and is the same test given to Purdue University students. Students have to earn a C or higher in the class to receive college credit.
The other closest high schools offering dual-credit classes from Purdue are Union City (Ind.) Community High School, Northeastern High School in Fountain City and Eastbrook High School, Marion. Also advanced life sciences-food is a class the department at JCHS hopes to implement in the future.