Michigan City High School celebrated a milestone on Friday, May 17, as it marked the 10th Anniversary of its Early College, the first program of its kind in the Northwest Indiana region.


The MCHS Early College program launched in August 2014, when it was certified by the University of Indianapolis’ Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL). Founders of the program, including MCAS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, Associate Superintendent Dr. Wendel McCollum, former Curriculum Director Jan Radford, School Board Member and former teachers’ union president Phyllis Stark, Counselor Rhonda LaMarr, and former principal Bonnie Manuel were honored during the ceremony by Early College Club officers, students Nancy Cobaxin-Antemate and Shane Hemphill.


The MCHS Early College program serves up to 100 students each year, preparing them for college and careers through personal attention in a “school within a school” environment. It focuses on students in the academic middle, along with those who may be the first in their families to attend college.


Thanks to a partnership with Ivy Tech and Indiana University, the program enables students to earn both high school and college credits. Students can also earn the Indiana College Core, a block of 30 credits guaranteed to transfer to any public university in Indiana.


“This program is challenging and rigorous – but we know that with a little extra encouragement and support, our Early College students can soar,” said MCAS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, who spoke during the celebration about the founding of the program. “Students are completing this program with high GPAs, 30 or 40 or even more college credits, scholarships, and big plans. We are proud of our current students, our alumni, and our record of success!”


According to MCHS Early College Counselor Rhonda LaMarr, 647 students have now been a part of the MCS Early College program.


Two Early College alumni, Dania Duenas and Johnnie Banks, were present at the celebration to share their experiences and advice with current students. Duenas graduated in December from Indiana University Bloomington with a degree in Human Resources and Finance. As a first-generation college student and the child of immigrants, she shared that the program had been invaluable in her postsecondary journey, saving her thousands in tuition and providing important guidance as she navigated her college options.


Banks, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Purdue Global on May 4 and is now employed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is pursuing a career with the FBI. She said that she is grateful for the Early College program and the impact it has had not only on her but on her siblings, as well.


During the celebration, representatives of Horizon Bank announced two new scholarships, which will be awarded annually to MCHS Early College students. The first recipients were MCHS seniors Dion Smith, who has the highest GPA among Early College graduating seniors, and Angelina Duenas, who was honored as the Exemplary Student for her high GPA, dual credits earned, and community service.


Following the program, Early College founders, teachers, seniors, and supporters gathered for a reception, signing a banner to mark the occasion.


In addition to the Early College program, Michigan City High School also offers an Honors College, which serves high-ability students through numerous dual-credit and Advanced Placement opportunities.


For more information about the MCHS Early College program, visit http://educateMC.net/EarlyCollege.