Aries Brown is an outgoing, motivated person – she loves to travel and experience new things. When she started high school at Akron Early College High School (AECHS), she was a member of the school’s very first incoming class, so everything was brand new. The basis for the school, though, was the evidence-based KnowledgeWorks early college high school model. ECHS provided all students with support and an individualized learning plan. Each student had the opportunity to earn up to 60 college credit hours, or an associate degree, at no cost to the student.
Two staff at AECHS stand out as having been particularly influential for Aries. “Every staff member influenced me but my two memorable moments were with Mrs. Kindleburg, who provided me with guidance when I wrote my college essay, and Ms. Andrews, who helped me find my passion in science.”
Even before beginning high school, Aries knew she was interested in a career in medicine. Ms. Andrews nurtured that interest by showing Aries how to navigate the college course options to fit her interests and how to apply the classroom knowledge she was learning to the real world, rather than just memorizing facts.
“She reiterated what I loved about science,” Aries said.
When Aries graduated amongst the school’s first graduating class in 2011, she had 72 college credit hours, a high school diploma, an associate degree from the University of Akron and the distinction of being the first in her family to go to college.
After high school, Aries went to Atlanta to attend Spelman College, America’s oldest historically Black college for women. She began school as a traditional freshman, but because she started with so many college credits figuring out what classes to take when wasn’t always easy. By the end of her sophomore year, she had enough college credits to graduate, but decided to stay on one more year and continue her studies.
When college coursework was difficult, she was able to fall back on skills she received in high school. “I still use Ms. Connolly’s study guide layout in order to manage my time correctly,” Aries said. “Also, AECHS helped me know myself and how to plan my classes and my next steps in life in ways that fit my personality and goals.”
Aries will be graduating Spelman College on May 18, 2014, one year ahead of schedule. She is graduating with a degree in Comparative Women’s Studies with pre-medical concentration. Beginning in August, Aries will start working as a patient navigator for a year in a family health clinic to gain experience before she begins medical school in the fall of 2015.
Even now, as she is preparing for her college graduation, Aries is grateful for her high school experience. “Honestly, without AECHS I would not be graduating from Spelman College early,” she said. “I learned so many important study habits and lessons in AECHS that enabled me to easily transition into college and do well.”
Aries was part of the legacy class of AECHS. “I loved being part of building the foundation of the school,” she said.
Since graduating, she has had one cousin graduate from AECHS, another is currently attending and yet another is planning on attending next year. All benefitting from the foundation built by the AECHS class of 2011.