Annually at this time of year, sophomores and juniors across the state consider participating in the Running Start program. This program began in the 1990s in response to the creation of the parent and student Learning by Choice Law, allowing high school students to simultaneously earn high school and college credit, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) website. Junior and senior year, students can accelerate their progress through the education system by attending local community and technical colleges, or even larger universities such as Central Washington, Eastern Washington, Washington State, and Northwest Indian College. However, although it may seem like an obvious choice on paper, there remain detriments alongside the benefits of such a program. Both of these make the decision to join Running Start a weighty one for students.
The Running Start program would allow for Black Hills students to attend South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) for both high school and college credit, yet the choice isn’t as easy as it sounds. Students have reported that the classes at the college have such a vastly different atmosphere and heightened classroom expectations that made the classes supremely difficult, especially foreign language classes. Also, taking classes at a college with full time Running Start separates people from their peers and friend groups, leading to a relative lack of peer social interactions. It becomes more difficult to be involved in high school activities, such as seasonal sports, theatre productions, and an assortment of school sponsored events.
Even though it may be seen as difficult to connect with the high school and people of similar age and goals, it does remain possible. Running Start students have participated in high school events nonetheless. Some students choose to attend Running Start part time, allowing for the accumulation of college credit while also avoiding complete peer isolation and disconnection, enjoying access to a more forgiving and nurturing environment at the high school. On the other hand, some students have seen the independence found in college courses relieving and invigorating, not to mention preferable to the almost coddling nature of high school. Not only do the instructors of the courses expect increased maturity, but students are expected to provide their own transportation, and are held increasingly more accountable, seeing as they are working in a more professional atmosphere. Over all, it is evident that Running Start is a successful program, but tends to be reserved for students of a certain caliber of maturity and self-reliance.
If you are interested in participating in Running Start, FAQs can be found on the OSPI Running Start webpage, and information regarding the program itself and orientation can be found with your counselor. If you wish for more rigorous academics, yet don’t desire to participate in Running Start, consider enrolling in AP classes for the next school year.
PHOTO CAPTION: Most Black Hills High School attendees engaging in Running Start attend SPSCC for the courses. (Photo Credit: SPSCC)
By Meredith Sayler