Twenty-seven students who just completed eighth grade at Mansfield Middle School embarked on their college careers Wednesday evening.

They are the first group that qualified for Graduate Pathways to Success (GPS), a program that will allow them the opportunity to earn two-year associate degrees from North Central State College at the same time they receive their Mansfield Senior High diplomas.

Here’s the kicker: GPS students will not have to leave the high school to take required college courses in conjunction with their high school classes and they will incur no debt.

The initial year of GPS is geared toward filling a need for qualified healthcare workers in the Mansfield area. Toward achieving that goal, OhioHealth is partnering with NCSC and Mansfield City Schools. “The GPS program will allow students to graduate career ready or continue their education at a four-year institution,” MCS Superintendent Brian Garverick said before the 27 students received their GPS acceptance certificates during a ceremony at Senior High. “As we know, there are jobs in Mansfield and the surrounding area that go unfilled due to the shortage of a trained workforce. The driving force behind the GPS is for OhioHealth, in this case, to develop a workforce that will enjoy rewarding careers while serving our community.”

The 27 students will hit the ground running next week when they begin a required three-week bridge course at NCSC to prepare them for their freshman year. MCS will provide bus transportation for those who need it.

Cheryl Carter, NCSC’s director of outreach and GPS coordinator, said the middle school staff initially recommended more than half of the eighth-grade class as potential GPS candidates. After taking college entrance exams and a series of “Intensive” interviews by NCSC and MCS staff, 27 students were selected for the first GPS cohort. The college had set an initial goal of 25. “I am so proud of these students. These young people worked hard and they are worthy of this opportunity,” Carter said. “There are so many bright students in our community. This is probably the most exciting thing we have done at the college to help our children and help our community.”

Middle school Principal Robert McQuate said the 27 made a commitment. “It might seem like magic to see these students sitting here tonight, but I assure you it was not magic,” he said.

“Students had to give up elective, fun classes to take college-ready tests. Think about that. Now they have the opportunity to earn associate degrees free of charge at the time they graduate from high school. “These students represent the hard work of teachers who believe in them,” McQuate said, “and parents who must be extremely proud of them.”

Anastasios Papachristoudis, administrative fellow at OhioHealth, offered his congratulations to the group for what he called “a life-changing event.” “Be prepared. The road ahead of you will be challenging,” he said. “We are here to support you.”

MCS Board of Education vice president Renda Cline expressed her pride in the students for what they had achieved through determination and hard work.

As the 27 students received their certificates – to the applause of families and friends — they were congratulated individually by NCSC officials, MCS Board of Education President Judy Forney, Cline and Garverick. Here is the list of students, as provided by NCSC:

Karlena Gonzalez, Tequella Ramirez, Cynthia Esparza, Brooklyn Fultz, Aubri Bernhardt, Aaron Wade, Carman Taylor, Beonca Sweet, Willilam Payne, Alexia Gerber, Mikayla Gibson, William Pounds, Erykka McAlexander, Alaina LeHew, Gabrielle Johnson, Tybalt Williams, Myles Bradley, Cirsten Cole, Jakob Hriesik, Za’Naiyh Cline, Kiah Potter, Victoria Netter, Gre’Juan Sweet, Tyler Crall, Marquesia Brown, Shaylei Perry

Source, Photo: Mansfield City Schools

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