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Grand River Prep’s MacKenzie Piper is First Student to Graduate Through Early College Program

Congratulations to MacKenzie Piper, the first graduate of National Heritage Academies’ (NHA) Early College Program (ECP). She earned her high school diploma and a tuition-free associate degree at Kentwood’s Grand River Preparatory High School through its partnership with Davenport University.
 
MacKenzie received her associate degree from Davenport University in Business Administration. She plans to continue at Davenport to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business. She is currently taking summer classes.
 

Since MacKenzie was the first student in the program, she was able to begin as she went into her senior year. The standard procedure is for students to apply to the program in their second semester of freshman year.
 
“My experience with the Early College Program was amazing. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to join this program and I would definitely recommend others to do it as well,” said MacKenzie. “I was able to get so much further ahead, and I am going to continue pushing through.”
 

Currently 84 total students are enrolled in the ECP, plus 31 incoming new students.
 
“We started the ECP in fall 2019,” said Koree Woodward, director of school quality. “I was involved with the early work in investigating the program, getting approvals, development and activation of the process. We are excited about its growth and the opportunity it is bringing to our students and their families.”
 

Receiving an associate degree through this program is estimated to be a $50,000 savings in college tuition while earning up to 60 college credits. The current college partners for NHA high schools are Davenport University and Wayne County Community College.
 
“MacKenzie was the perfect person to start this new program,” said Leah Ebbert, LSC, college and career readiness counselor at Grand River Prep. “She is bright, very driven, and independent. She was ‘all in’ as far as developing her schedule and working with her counselors and teachers to make it come together. Plus, she was doing the majority of this in the midst of COVID.”
 

The ECP is a five-year educational plan that allows students to complete high school in three years and go on to earn an associate degree or certificate. Research proves that high school students who enroll in early college programs are more likely to graduate high school, report a positive school experience, have expanded career opportunities upon program completion, successfully transition to college, complete their degree, and graduate with less student loan debt.
 
The application mirrors a college application and is an equal opportunity program, with a 2.5 grade point average requirement by the 11th grade.
 
The students have experienced guides helping them navigate every step of their ECP experience. This support team includes school counselors and advisors, an academic coach, and faculty members. The academic coach uses class periods to help guide ECP students and answer questions.
 

“As for all my teachers, advisors, counselors, and other staff at GRP, I received a massive amount of support. Whenever I needed help or had any questions, they were always there to help me,” said MacKenzie. “I was told by some that I would not be able to do it, but with the GRP staff cheering me on I did. I am forever grateful that I chose to be a student at this amazing school. Without them pushing me, and allowing me to continue on with higher education, I would not be who or where I am today.”
 
MacKenzie will be talking to interested NHA school groups so she can share her experience and answer questions.
 
“Some advice I would give others who are thinking about joining would be to do it and not give up,” said MacKenzie. “I kept telling myself that it would all be worth it in the end. Because when you first start it feels like you will never reach the finish line, but I can tell you that it's there.”