Eric Cheever is one of two college readiness coordinators at Shiprock High School. He is also a college advisor, and coordinates student visits to college fairs. (Bonnie Lee is a Shiprock High college readiness gifted coordinator. She will be featured in an upcoming article.)
What do you teach at Shiprock High School?
Eric Cheever: I teach College Success in the fall and an on-campus dual credit San Juan College class—LRNS 111—in the spring. The classes are open to juniors and seniors.
We teach LRNS (pronounced learns) 111 on the Shiprock High campus to give our students more opportunity to access higher education programs. It is just a continuation of the first semester. Students who take College Success in the fall take LRNS 111 in the spring and that gives them 3 hours of college credit while they’re still in high school. And then it transfers back as a high school credit—a full 1.0 credit.
So you want students to take College Success in the fall first?
Cheever: It’s a year-long program. They do College Success in the fall where we work on scholarships, and ACT preps, and college applications and then transition into LRNS 111 in the spring. It continues to focus on this but adds other strategies to be successful transitioning out of high school and transitioning into college.
How many dual-credit college credits do you have to take while in high school to graduate?
Cheever: The graduation requirement with the state of New Mexico is that you have taken either a dual-credit, an honors, or an advanced placement course—one of the three. So LRNS 111 would satisfy the graduation requirement.
It’s one of our goals to grow the dual-credit program. I want to say we had 77 students in (overall) dual-credit classes last year. They took either LRNS 111, on-line classes, or courses at San Juan College if they preferred.
What motivates you, what drives you to want to help students?
Cheever: It’s about access to opportunity, and that our students have access to careers that provide a living wage, and that they can pursue their dreams and their goals, and do so with the support of the staff and structure at Shiprock High School.
I think post-secondary and a college education is a way to find a living wage and find success, and being able to choose the outcomes of your life. And I think that’s really important for our students to be able to exercise that and find opportunities to become who they want to be.
College changed the trajectory of my life. I wanted to be able to show and support students in finding the same opportunities on how influential post-secondary education can be, and how transformative it can be. I want students to have the same opportunities.
What is the greatest challenge?
Cheever: The biggest challenge is finding ways to advocate for all of our students and supporting them in all aspects of the college application process. A large percentage of our students are first-generation college students or will be first-generation college students.
We need to find ways to increase our support for all students. I think the way to do that is to have conversations about college earlier, in elementary school and middle school, and even earlier in high school, and communicating that college can be an expectation.
Some type of post-secondary program where students can get a certificate or a degree to help them achieve their goals and their dreams. College isn’t necessarily a four-year degree. It can also be vocational or technical education programs.