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Circle High School sought Butler Community College partnership in new Thrive program

A professor stands in front of parents and teachers to explain details regarding her department.
Published: Friday, February 14th, 2020

Thrive program to offer seamless dual credit opportunities to students

EL DORADO, Kan. – January 27 marked another step toward stronger alliances between Butler Community College and area high schools.

Circle Public Schools USD #375 superintendent, Don Potter, reached out to Butler and requested a program to help his current high school students gain college-level education. Fortunately for Potter, Butler faculty and staff had already been working to build “pathway programs.” Using what they built, Butler tailored course offerings to Circle High School so that students could take advanced college credit, building seamless transferable programs.

"I want to provide opportunities for kids to choose. It's not just choosing general education courses; it's actually getting into the career of their choice early…which creates that passion. I feel the newly created Thrive program helps us toward this goal. In the Thrive program students choose verses someone else choosing for them," said Potter.

Students in the past could take general education classes while at high school or perhaps as a night class on campus, but now students are able to continue their education with targeted college programs.

“The goal for Butler has been to align high school pathways with Butler pathways,” said Heather Rinkenbaugh, dean of online, high school and community learning.

Rinkenbaugh explained that this alignment of high school curriculum with Butler pathways allows “students to have a clear path from high school to college.”

Through the Thrive program, Circle students are able to go to any Butler campus generally from 8-11 or 12:30-3:30 each day, gaining high school credit while also advancing toward a college degree. In certain situations, Butler instructors may even teach at Circle. Butler created the schedule in blocks to make it convenient for the students, according to Potter, but said there could be adjustments in future scheduling.

Creating a specific program pathway for students to pursue during high school allows students to explore beyond general education courses, giving them a head start on deciding what field and degree they want to work toward. According to Potter, 71% of jobs in 2020 are going to require an associate degree or higher level of education.

“The closer we can get kids on the right path, we believe that their likelihood of being successful after high school graduation is much higher,” said Potter.

It’s an effort Potter takes seriously. He said Circle’s goal is to have 40% of their current freshman class either attain an associate degree or recognized industry certificate.

“It is a goal we put out there to push ourselves and provide kids additional opportunities to meet that goal whereas if we didn't have that goal, certainly we wouldn’t be providing the opportunities we are currently for our kids,” said Potter.

Students are not locked in to any set amount of courses. It is solely up to them how many classes and which classes to take.

“We're not requiring anybody to take these options. We're just presenting the opportunity for them to have the options,” said Potter.

Reaction of the program from parents, community and students has been more than positive, according to Potter.

“I believe that they were pleasantly surprised the amount of dedication and commitment to providing these opportunities for kids that it took to get to that level. Overall, I think they were very appreciative,” said Potter.

Butler classes are offered to all high schools as long as high school administration allows it, giving students the ability to take advanced courses from Butler while still earning high school credit toward graduation.

“We believe that we have a product here that is going to benefit all of Butler County, not just Circle,” said Potter. “Right now it’s a Circle – Butler partnership, but I really want it to be all of Butler County’s partnership,” he continued.

The Thrive program currently offers five complete programs to Circle students. By conducting a “career cruising survey,” it was found the top five programs students were interested in was engineering, health science, education, agriculture and business. Butler will offer these five first and continue to add more programs as Butler faculty and staff progress through their program pathways building plan.

Butler faculty plan to create packaged pathways that implement more internship opportunities as well.

The Thrive program was made possible because of Butler’s new rescheduling of current program pathways. This new scheduling will easily illustrate a two-year plan to degree and will center around a day part, i.e., morning, afternoon or evening, or by location, i.e., El Dorado, Andover, online, etc. Faculty and staff are ramping up to offer schedule packages for all students by fall enrollment on March 23.