YOUNGSTOWN - From designing bridges and 3D projects to exploring their creative side, area high school students also are getting a head start on their college degrees.
Youngstown State University Early College students spoke with the community and school officials Thursday at an open house at YSU.
The event was held in celebration of National Early College High School Week, and students were available to answer questions and share their successes.
"We do a lot of posters, we do hands-on experiments," said ninth-grader Chyna Lewis, 15, of Youngstown, as she showed off some of her fellow students' biology projects as well as a few of her own. "This is my first grade here. It's great."
Ninth-grader Icis Duboic, 15, of Youngstown, called the college a good advantage, and hopes to graduate with her associate's degree.
The Youngstown Early College, initiated in 2004 with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Jobs for the Future, provides high-school students with the opportunity to earn two years of college credits - a potential for them to graduate with 30 semester hours of college credit along with their high school diploma.
There are 210 students enrolled in the YEC, and the college anticipates 16 of them will hold associate degrees this year, YEC principal Michele Dotson said.
Students spend their freshman and sophomore years in YSU's Fedor Hall, and during their junior and senior years, they spend the majority of their time on campus with a full college load, she said.
Acceptance into the program is contingent upon grades and attendance. Applicants are interviewed and attend a summer bridge, which is a transition period between eighth and ninth grades to prepare them for the rigors of early college, Dotson said.
The district picks up the cost of tuition and attendance.
Youngstown Schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn, who attended the open house, said, "We have good students who are capable of achieving at a higher level. I commend the teachers and administration here. They are doing a good job."
While taking classes at YEC, students also have the opportunity to take part in after-school programs such as Destination Imagination, the Robotics Club and the YEC Historical Society.
Robotics student and member of the Robotics Team Jah-Nice Berry of Youngstown was displaying 3-dimensional team logos created by students.
"You start off with a base on the computer and then you have to rotate it, connect it with another base. It's pretty cool," she said, explaining that students created a drawing which was then used with a 3D printer to make the shapes.
Instructor Mark Robinson said his classes teach students to do manufacturing and to learn how to work as a team through long distance, and incorporates math, science and technology with a strong focus on technology.
Utilizing the Virtual Collaborative Learning Environment, students design in one place and build in another.
Ninth-grader Justice Huckaba of Youngstown said she enjoys participating in the Historical Society after school.
"Right now, we're working on the B&O Railroad Station and doing research to show how the past is related to the present," she said.
Next week, students will visit the station to take pictures and later will build a model of it.