Get A Jumpstart on Your College Career: Which Program is Best for You?

By Brianna Baldwin

Many policies are up for change this year in our small school, James River High School. All of the math Dual Enrollment classes, along with other various Dual Enrollment classes, are not going to be offered. This comes with anger and general upset as Dual Enrollment was one of the few ways our school helped students get started in college and pay less for college level classes but James River has made a plan to replace Dual Enrollment, Advanced Placement or AP classes. The school is planning on not only replacing the classes they have decided to do away with with AP classes, but adding some new AP classes as well. AP classes are a great option for students but it does not always grant college credit. At the end of every school year, AP students have to take a comprehensive test, that costs over one hundred dollars, and if they do not receive a specific score or better, colleges will not accept credit. So this leads to the question, what other options does James River High School have for students who want to begin their college career early? The answer: STEM-H, Roanoke Valley Governor's School, and Jackson River Governor’s School.


STEM-H is a program in the Botetourt County school district that provides classes for all four years of high school, the first two at B-Tech and the last two at Virginia Western Community College. STEM-H stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Health. The three programs offered to Lord Botetourt and James River High Schools are IST, Engineering, and Nursing. Each of these programs offer college credit but not all credits are equal. The Health program offers enough credits for any student to receive their associates degree when they graduate high school, but they have to take some classes outside of the program. The Engineering program offers a similar amount of credits but not all of them are able to go towards the same degree. The IST program offers little to no transferable credits and does not travel to Virginia Western. In an interview with Anthony Etzler, a former STEM-H Engineering student, he made note that not all classes are required and the student is able to drop them at any time but it comes with a catch. Any classes dropped will either be labeled as Withdrawal or as Failed, depending upon the circumstances such as when the class was dropped. They offer mathematics classes such as Precalculus and Calculus but only offer basic engineering classes otherwise. STEM-H is also not funded by the school, meaning the students have to pay for classes, textbooks, etc., adding up to close to $1,200 per semester. Anthony added that the teachers are helpful and work hard to teach every student.

Roanoke Valley Governor’s School

Roanoke Valley Governor’s School program is similar to STEM-H in the sense that it is offered throughout all four years of high school, but is different when it comes to how many students are accepted. The number of students accepted change every year depending on how many students graduate or leave the program each year as well as how many seats each county buys, “My year had 9 seats, this year only had 3,” said Shannon, a current Roanoke Valley Governor’s School student. Each class taken is Dual Enrollment but there are some classes that students have the option of taking as an AP class. According to Shannon, most of the mathematics classes, besides Multivariable Calculus, are offered in AP, as well as all science classes offered except Biology. With the classes offered, the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School program sounds very similar to other programs but the same interview mentioned above, Shannon said, “The main difference is that this program is research based.” She also commented on how helpful the teachers are by stating that “Most of the teachers are there every morning a half-hour to hour before class starts incase students would like tutoring or help with a recent homework assignment. The teachers will also listen to students about their interests and show the students various opportunities to explore said topic more. This includes giving the students information directly or even finding summer camps that deal with said topic for the student to consider. And what does this cost the student? Nothing! The Roanoke Valley Governor’s School program provides the students with not only payment for the classes but textbooks as well.

Jackson River Governor’s School

Jackson River Governor’s School is the only Dual Enrollment program offered at James River through Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. Through this program, students receive a Certificate of Math and Science and allows students to take all of the mathematics and science courses a student needs to fulfil a General Science and Mathematics Degree, leaving only english, history, and elective courses for the student to take in order to finish their Associates Degree. Although this sounds like a large number of classes, some students have been able to take the classes necessary for their degree, not offered by the Jackson River Governor’s School program, online and finish their degree before they graduate from high school, meaning they can apply to colleges as transfer students rather than as freshmen. This program is offered for only Juniors and Seniors at James River (some other schools that attend the program allow Sophomores as well), and requires an application to be submitted. Applying alone does not guarantee admission; students have to do well in school, work hard, and show that they are able to handle college-level work along with their high school work. Once admitted, students are able to choose whether they would like to take Biology or Chemistry their Junior year. Once they make this decision, they are enrolled into classes. These classes are Statistics, Precalculus 1 and 2, Biology or Chemistry 1 and 2, and Research. Senior year students have the option of taking one of the science classes they did not take, or Physics. They also are enrolled into ITE 115 as well as Calculus 1 and 2. There is one condition: students must receive a grade of 70 or higher by the end of every course in order to stay in the program.

Each of these programs have positives as well as negatives and each has opportunities not offered in the other programs. There is no definitive “best program” of the three, as every student prefers different ways of learning and not every student is able to join these programs, so students should look into each of these programs and apply to any that interest them.