As the school year winds down, there is a unique group of students marking the end of their first year in college, the students enrolled in the Advanced Academy of West Virginia.

From left, Advanced Academy students Elizabeth Simpson, Karla Yurko, Devyn Nickerson and Tequila Smith pose during an initial gathering at Linsly Outdoor Center.

From left, Advanced Academy students Elizabeth Simpson, Karla Yurko, Devyn Nickerson and Tequila Smith pose during an initial gathering at Linsly Outdoor Center.

“West Liberty University’s initiative to provide ambitious and academically motivated high school juniors and seniors a chance to accelerate their education is now ending the first year of its pilot program. This inaugural class has worked hard and has proven the initiative a success,” said President Robin C. Capehart.

A total of six students were admitted into the Advanced Academy in the fall of 2012. Of the six, four are returning to WLU, either as full-time college students or as second year AAWV students next year.

“The Advanced Academy is a dual enrollment program designed to give motivated juniors and seniors early access to higher education,” said Ron Witt, Jr., executive director of the Institute for Innovation in Education, whose office initiated the program.

Advanced Academy students join WLU’s traditional Honors College, another University initiative that offers regular college students an academically challenging environment.

But these younger students remain living at home and commute to the Hilltop for college level courses, in lieu of their standard high school classes. Advanced Academy students are not only earning college credit, they are simultaneously fulfilling their high school academic requirements. Therefore, by the time an Academy student graduates high school, he or she could earn as many as 60 hours of college credit, according to Witt.

Of the six students in the inaugural class, three are registered at Wheeling Park High School, one is registered at John Marshall High School and two are registered with the Abundant Life Home School this school year.

In addition to Ohio and Marshall County public schools, students from Brooke High School will have an opportunity to join the AAWV program in the fall, for the 2013-2014 academic year.

From left, Dr. Shannon Halicky and Lacey Santorine go over classes.

From left, Dr. Shannon Halicki and Lacey Santorine go over classes.

“Overall, we’ve been very pleased with the program. More importantly, our Advanced Academy students are happy to be in an engaging academic community with like-minded peers. They kept pace with their older classmates, and in many cases outperformed them,” said Shannon Halicki, Advanced Academy interim academic coordinator.

“The experience was great. It gave me a head start in my education and my future,” said Lacey Santorine, 17, who graduates May 18 from Wheeling Park and has elected to stay at WLU and earn her college degree. She plans to major in business management.

Comments from faculty about the youngest students also are favorable.

“At the beginning of the semester and knowing they were high school students, I was a little worried on how they would handle the chemistry class, as it as seen as one of the more difficult subjects and classes to take at WLU from what I hear students say. But they did extremely well and one of the students has the highest grade in my class and set the curve on nearly every exam and quiz,” said Professor Douglas Swartz. “They were a joy to have in class, as they were engaging, participated in class activities, and demonstrated maturity for both their age and academic discipline.”

If these are the type of students the Advanced Academy is going to bring to WLU, I would lobby to increase that number. It is an asset to campus. From what I’ve seen and experienced, it’s a wonderful program,” he added.

Advanced Academy applications are available online. Deadline for application is May 31, 2013. For more information, please contact Witt at 304-336-8844 or via email at [email protected]