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The Early College of Macomb program: A student's perspective

Macomb County Planning and Economic Development is committed to building the next generation of our workforce to ensure our local businesses prosper and grow. From our Fueling the Talent Pipeline program, to our involvement with Ford Next Generation Learning, to our collaborative efforts with Michigan Works! – MCPED is working to create solutions to fill the jobs of tomorrow.

Recently, MCPED hosted two students through the Early College of Macomb program, an initiative of the Macomb Intermediate School District and Macomb Community College. The students worked alongside the marketing and communications team as part of a job shadow/internship requirement. During their time with the department, the students wrote short blogs about their experience in the program and why it's a solid option for young people. Hear from Samantha Fudge and Natily Kiryakouz below. 

Samantha Fudge

young woman sits for a photo

My name is Samantha Fudge, and I am in my 13th year of the Early College of Macomb program (ECM). I will be graduating this May with an associate degree and 62 transferable credits to the university of my choice. If I was able to go back in time to change my decision, I wouldn’t. Becoming a part of the ECM program was by far the best decision I could’ve made for myself.  The Early College of Macomb program is a program that allows students to begin earning their degree while still in high school. Students are given focused support, an early advantage, an experience that high school students don’t usually get, as well as a chance to earn college credit for free. While this is an amazing opportunity, it can be very nerve wracking, stressful and a little hard to understand at first.

I want to begin by discussing the breakdown between high school and college classes. After applying for the program and being accepted, you are assigned a seminar instructor who will help guide you through the entire program. Beginning in 11th grade you will take three classes at your high school and two at Macomb Community College (MCC). You will also be assigned a seminar section. Your senior year you have two classes at your high school and three at MCC while still attending your seminar class twice a week. Finally, in your 13th year you are a full-time student carrying at least 12 credits a semester and attending a seminar once a week. When you exit the program after your 13th year you will most likely have 60(ish) credits that you can take with you wherever you decide to go afterwards. Whether that is a 4-year university, a trade school or straight into your field of choice.

Students in the program also have access to tons of resources. The seminar instructor you are assigned at the beginning of the program will be there for you to ask questions, and provide guidance and advice. They also have a lot of contacts, so if you need help with something which they aren’t an expert at, they know exactly where to send you to receive that support. My seminar instructor is Mrs. Kent. She has helped me so much throughout the program. She is always there to answer my questions and help when she can. She always has my back if I am caught up in an argument with a professor and always knows the best course of action. I have heard great things from my peers about all the seminar instructors. They truly care about their students and want what’s best for them. The biggest advantage to having the support there was definitely while applying to colleges and for FASFA. Students in high school don’t get the same level of help that ECM gives its students.   

The college atmosphere is completely different from the high school one. You get more freedom and flexibility with college life. I was able to schedule my classes when it was most convenient for me to take them. This was a big factor for me. It allowed me to feel more in control over my life and I wasn’t restricted to the 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. school schedule. This past year I have been able to take more on campus classes and this has helped me to get a better understanding of our community as a whole, as well as exposing me to new opportunities that I probably would not have been able to experience had it not been for ECM. I was also exposed to different workplace environments through this program because of the internship/job shadow that each student completes. I was able to explore possible career choices that I thought might be a good fit.

Early Is truly the center of this program. As a student you are able to get early entrance, exit and success.  Your early entrance begins when you enter this program as a junior -- which is two years younger than you would usually begin college. As a student you also get early success, students graduate with an associate degree one year after graduating high school. This puts you a year ahead of your peers in high school. Participating in this program also lowers the cost of finishing your degree. You will only have to pay for two years of university to get your bachelor's degree. This sets you up for success because students typically don’t have to take out as much in student loans. You are also still applicable for freshman scholarships at your university.  

When I decided to enroll in the program my biggest worry was will this program ruin the high school experience? I thought for sure that I wouldn’t be able to experience high school like everyone else. I quickly discovered that wasn’t the case. I was still able to participate in clubs and activities. I ran track and field my junior and senior year and was more involved in my team than ever.  

Natily Kiryakouz

young woman stands on a sidewalk

“The Early College of Macomb Program is one of the best programs offered in Macomb County.” (Judy Pritchett).

During my sophomore year in high school I did not have the future in mind. When I received a letter sent by the Early College of Macomb, that is when I realized that I could start preparing for my future now and this program was here to help me. Early College of Macomb offers students the opportunity to work towards their associate degree while still in high school. Hesitant about the offer, I consulted my counselor. My counselor explained all the money I would be saving, and the preparations that are taken by the program to guide me to my future. The Early College of Macomb program saves me time, and money, and guides me into my career.

My parents and I came from Iraq to live a better life. I learned to push myself and be the best version of myself in school to fulfill the reason my parents immigrated to the United States. I knew that this program would help me make my parents proud. My parents wanted the best for me and let me choose whether I wanted to join or not. At an early age, I was exposed to and aware of debts and loans. I could not even imagine acquiring hundreds of thousands of dollars to help pay for university, and I certainly did not want to put that burden on my parents either. I decided to apply for the program despite all the concerns held by my friends about not getting my diploma.

I am now in my 12th year of the program. Without Early College, I would not have developed many of the skills needed to succeed in my career. The friends who were once worried and doubted the program are now amazed by all the assistance and preparation the program does for me and others. I’ve been nothing but motivated during my time in the program knowing that I will be ahead of my class. I am halfway through my associate degree and have learned so much about business, while also fulfilling the Michigan Transfer Agreements. The MTA will ensure my credits transfer over to a four-year university.

Going into the program, I had no idea what path I would be taking for my future. Taking a couple of elective college courses, I found my passion for marketing. I now felt a sense of guidance and relief, in contrast to not knowing what steps to follow before the program. Early College requires several job-shadow hours from their students each year. These hours must be completed by shadowing someone in a desired career. This program is not only preparing me for my future, but also compelling me to watch and learn to be a marketer.

I am beyond grateful for the Early College of Macomb and their staff. I have saved thousands of dollars, all thanks to the MISD. I have met many people and built thoughtful connections through this program. I am excited and feel prepared to take the next steps after this wonderful program.

This blog was prepared by Senior Communications Specialist Megan Ochmanek, with the support of Samantha Fudge and Natily Kiryakouz.

Department:Macomb Business