We caught up with Eden Klein in California while she was visiting the campus of Stanford University, where she plans to apply to law school next year. Eden will graduate from the University of Texas at El Paso with a bachelor of science in economics in June 2017. She will be 19 years old, and the only reason she’s not graduating this year is that UTEP’s debating team wants her contribution so badly they’re paying for her to stay enrolled full-time at UTEP for an extra year. Eden’s goal is to be a district attorney, then a judge, and possibly run for political office.
Although she says she wanted to be President since she was a little girl, Eden wasn’t always this confident. In middle school she was “weird” (her own word), and bullied regularly. So when a friend from church told her about UTEP’s Early College High School program, Eden applied.
The community of bright, ambitious students and dedicated teachers she found at the Mission Early College High School is a big part of what makes Eden’s experience so positive. The other students were all smart and ambitious (one of Eden’s friends is now at Berkeley and another at Michigan Law School). Eden notes that she wouldn’t have met these people in a regular high school. At Mission ECHS, Eden built “genuine friendships and real self-confidence,” and she felt supported by friends who encouraged one another to explore intellectually, like the one who showed her “how cool economics is.”
“The teachers really cared about each of us,” Eden recounts. “They always pushed us to do our best. . . . When I wanted to take 21 credit hours so I could graduate in my junior year, the administrator at UTEP said it was too much, but my counselor from ECHS supported me because she knew I could do it.” And being around like-minded students—serious about academics and their future—meant that Eden could “be herself” without worrying about social pressure or bullying.
Comparing her experiences with those of her peers who attended traditional high schools, Eden observes that the entire ECHS program is designed to support the students and eliminate institutional tensions that can create distractions. At ECHS, there were dozens of extracurricular activities available to Eden and her friends, but the focus was always academics first. “If you had a paper due, and you couldn’t make it to a club meeting, [the teacher in charge] would always say, ‘Skip the meeting. Your work is more important.’” The only sports they play are intramural, which means no one has to choose between lengthy practices and doing their work. Asked to sum up her experience, Eden says: “ECHS is worth it; it’s valuable; it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
This profile is being released in conjunction with Early College High School Week, an annual celebration of early college success nationwide. Follow news about the week at #ECweek16.
Learn more about Eden's early college program in our new report Addressing the 61st Hour Challenge: Collaborating in El Paso to Create Seamless Pathways from High School to College.