- GW Home
- About GW
- University Life
- News & Events
- Faculty And Staff
A Special Graduation
May 16, 2011
School Without Walls students earn GW degrees.
Among the 7,000 Colonials who graduated during GW’s Commencement weekend were 14 high school students.
The students are the first cohort of the GW Early College Program, a partnership with the School Without Walls, the D.C. public high school located on G Street in Foggy Bottom.
Selected through a rigorous application process, the GW Early College Program students are considered full-time GW students, and each take four to five classes per semester. Tuition is waived. After completion of the program, students earn both an Associate of Arts degree from GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and a high school diploma from School Without Walls.
Seven students out of this year’s cohort will attend GW this fall. They will all graduate from School Without Walls on June 13 in Lisner Auditorium.
“We’re so proud all 14 started and finished,” said School Without Walls Principal Richard Trogisch. “We’re very proud of the way that they’ve behaved and the way they’ve all been successful.”
In brief remarks to the graduates and their family members May 14 before the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Commencement celebration, program director Sheila Mills Harris, B.A. ’74, thanked staff from School Without Walls and GW for their help making the program a success. She told the cohort they were the program’s “pioneers.”
“It has been a pleasure to work with each and every one of you, and it’s been my honor to watch you grow,” said Dr. Harris, a former School Without Walls principal. “I’m especially grateful to the university for giving scholarships and financial aid for those who will remain [at GW].
“I have no doubt that the investments that we have all made in each of you will prove to be worthwhile.”
For Hayley Andrews, the graduation was exciting because it was her first, having been homeschooled for most of her life. The Early College Program was a chance for her to accelerate her studies.
“I applied because it was a good opportunity to finish up high school at the same time while getting a college diploma, and it was kind of like getting a half scholarship to GW, which is one of the best universities in the nation,” she said.
At GW, Ms. Andrews took French for the first time, as well as statistics and science courses, including biology for premedical students.
With encouragement from her parents, Ms. Andrews decided to attend GW, which she said “is where I really want to be.”
Pernilla Persson, who heads to Bates College in the fall, took biology and physics courses at GW.
“What I most appreciate about [the program] is that when I continue my college education, I’ll be more prepared for college classes than I think most incoming freshmen will be,” she said. “It’s given me insight into what I want to do because I’ve attended classes and now understand what different fields entail, so I’m really happy for this opportunity that GW has given me to be more prepared for my future.”
The GW Early College Program is the latest initiative in a long-term partnership between GW and School Without Walls. Since 1980, the two have collaborated and shared academic space and resources, completing a historic restoration of the high school in 2009 that transformed the 118-year-old structure into a 68,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art learning environment.
Along with Dr. Harris, the Early College Program’s development team included Mr. Trogisch; GW Deputy General Counsel Charles Barber; Paul Duff, associate dean for GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences; and Alex Donahue, former director of college readiness at D.C. Public Schools.
Mr. Barber, who attended the program’s graduation ceremony, said he and the team—as well as members of GW’s senior staff—were deeply involved with the students to make sure they had the proper support, encouragement and focus as they pursued both degrees. He said that as a lawyer he oftentimes keeps “professional distance” from projects, but this one was personal for him.
“I’m very heartened to see that students have come this far and that many are continuing at GW,” he said. “This is a big day for both institutions but particularly for the students.”
For Gabriela Cruz, the program gave her a chance to fulfill the dreams of her parents, who strongly encouraged her to go to college. Attending GW in the fall on a full scholarship, Ms. Cruz said she will pursue an English major thanks to the GW English classes she took through the Early College Program.
“GW’s English classes were very bold,” she said. “The concepts were broad but the professors were able to use those concepts and translate them into ideas we’d use every day. That’s what made me decide to study English at GW.”
Loretta Hillware, mother of Early College Program graduate Sarah Hillware, said she could not be “more happy” about her daughter’s dual degree.
“Sarah wants to go to medical school, and I’m elated she’s chosen GW to finish her third and fourth year,” said Ms. Hillware. “To be given a full ride those two years were more than any parent could hope for. I’m overwhelmed with thanks and appreciation to GW and the program.”
Dr. Harris said the program has been a “rewarding and amazing experience” for all involved.
“We will take all that we have learned and achieved to improve the program for cohorts of students to come,” she said. “The GW Early College Program is worthy of replication and hopefully, there will be others to follow our lead and afford similar opportunities to more students in the Metropolitan area and beyond.”
Mr. Trogisch said the success of the first cohort will hopefully inspire others to follow in their path.
“I’m sure we will serve as a model of public-private partnerships within the D.C. area and across the country,” he said. “I think there are a lot of students who waste time sitting in high school seats when they are capable of college work, and they should have that opportunity.”
To return to the George Washington Today homepage, click here.