By Cathy Taylor
In the fall of 2011, Farwell mathematics instructor Lynette Lentovich spearheaded the Early College Program for high school students in the Farwell Public School system. Slightly more than one year later, Lentovich’s project has become so successful that it has attracted attention and earned high praise from public school systems as well as colleges across the state of Michigan.
In the words of Baker College President Kelly Smith, “Farwell is the top school in the state with their Early College Program. Their program goes above and beyond all the other school district’s programs, and Baker refers to Farwell as the model school for all others interested in starting a program such as this.”
Farwell Public School Superintendent Carl Seiter feels that the key to the success of this program is its innovative and dedicated instigator, Lynette Lentovich.
“Without her drive, her ambition, her motivation and her confidence in the students in their abilities, the program wouldn’t be nearly the success it is,” Seiter commented. “She has done a phenomenal job with this program as well as with the kids. It’s all about making successful adults.”
Seiter continued, “What separates Farwell’s program from all the other ones in the state is our philosophy to invest in any student that shows determination and the will to better themselves as an adult. Lynette provides the support for the kids, and that puts us well above all the other schools.”
“I recently attended an MASP workshop with 50-60 different Michigan schools represented in the room,” said Seiter. “At break time, the board
president of the Genesee County School District as well as the superintendent of the Baldwin School District sought me out in the crowd and approached me with questions about our Early College Program. They said they are constantly hearing about the success of Farwell.”
Simply stated, The Early College Program is a reinvention of the traditional high school experience. It is based on the principle that academic hard work, the motivation to succeed as well as the opportunity to save precious time and money are driving forces that motivate young minds to excel.
Once enrolled in the program, students work with Lentovich to plan a course of study that will allow them to blend their high school credit requirements with their desired collegiate course of study. It has the potential to compress the time it takes to complete the requirements for a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree from 4 or 5 years into just 3. This is accomplished by adding a 5th year of high school study after the student’s traditional senior year.
Students in the program are required to successfully complete the 27 credits necessary for their high school diploma as well as a minimum of 15 credit hours at the college level by the end of their 5th year. Students must also complete a total of 40 hours of course-related internship or 100 hours of community volunteer services before the end of the 5th year to receive their Early College Diploma. The maximum amount of college credit hours that students are allowed to earn during the course of the program is 60.
The Early College Program differs from the traditional route of dual high school/college enrollment in several ways. Students in the program are given the opportunity to amass enough college credit hours to actually earn an Associate’s Degree before they even graduate from high school.
The Early College Program also differs in the fact that any student, regardless of their grade point average, past academic performance or ability to pay, can take advantage of the program. The chief requirement necessary is the desire to commit to the program and to excel academically to ensure success in the adult world.
“We accept any student who is willing to commit to the program, but we are targeting students who traditionally would not even attempt to enroll in college,” said Lentovich. “Over 50% of our 5th year students are first generation college students. They also have a wide range of ability. We have one student who was third in his senior class. We also have one student who was 88th. This student would probably never have been accepted into college. He is now one of the top performers in his welding curriculum.”
According to Lentovich, it’s not just about getting a certificate or a degree. The success of the students beyond their high school years is the main goal of the program. By believing in the students, the students begin to believe in themselves. By opening the academic door to all students who have the desire and ambition to better themselves and their situation in life, the sky is the limit.
By participating in the program, the total cost of college tuition is waived for the students and paid for by the school. All college textbooks are provided free of charge. Students have the opportunity to take their college classes at the high school, on line, or on the college campus in which they are enrolled.
Duffy Doxtater, a member of the Farwell Board of Education, stated, “Through this program, our overall grade point average for high school students has increased tremendously. Most of the kids in this program maintain higher GPAs than others.”
Farwell High School student Trevor Blain was the first student to graduate from the Early College Program last December. Along with his high school diploma, Blain successfully completed an amazing 49 college credits, putting him well on his way to a very bright future.
What makes Blain’s accomplishments so incredible is the fact that he started his high school journey as a very troubled young man. He nearly dropped out of high school due to failed classes and discipline problems. It was through the caring and determined support offered by Lentovich and her colleagues that Blain was able to turn his high school experience completely around. He began believing in himself and in his potential to succeed. Through the program, Trevor was able to discover all of the latent talent and ability previously hidden beneath that troubled exterior.
As the result of his hard work and determination to succeed, Trevor received thousands of dollars in scholarships and is currently studying engineering at Kettering University in Flint.
Lentovich stated, “Trevor is doing amazing things at Kettering. He is currently one of the top students in his Calculus III class. He has recently been interviewed by two large companies just in the last two weeks. I am confident he will be offered at least one of these positions for his internship.”
Trevor Blain is a shining example of what can be achieved as the result of thinking outside the academic box. The flexible and innovative high school experience provided by Lentovich and her cohorts have not only given students like Trevor Blain the chance to salvage their troubled high school years, but also the opportunity to excel and to achieve great things, all of which they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
“The hardest part for me at this point in the program is communication,” admitted Lentovich. “I think of myself as their mother hen. I drive myself crazy sometimes worrying about them. I’m constantly on them to make sure they are succeeding and doing everything they are supposed to be doing. I never know if I’m on them too much or not enough.”
Considering the tremendous success the program has seen in just the first year, it is obvious that Lentovich has found just the right combination of communication and encouragement these students need to succeed.
According to Superintendent Seiter, “We all talk constantly about opening up the lines of communication with our students as well as building positive relationships with them. Lynette Lentovich is probably the best I’ve ever seen at doing this very thing.”
Parents and students who would like to find out more about the Early College Program should visit or call Lynette Lentovich at Farwell High School.