Jordan Cedillo shed tears of joy when she was accepted to Transmountain Early College High School in her hometown of El Paso, Texas. She credits the ECHS program with giving her the confidence that she could accomplish something, and finally overcome the feeling of being behind schedule that had stayed with her since she was kept back in first grade. Entering ECHS in 9th grade, Jordan was 16, but just three years later she received her associate’s degree—the youngest member of her class—and now at 21, she has just one more year to finish her BA. She would have completed the degree sooner if she hadn’t joined ROTC, which means that she is now an officer in the United States Army too! Completing ROTC was, Jordan says, “the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” and she is proud to be the first woman in her family to join the military or become an officer.
Jordan had always wanted to be a doctor or a scientist of some kind: in elementary school, an astronomer; in middle school, a chemist; and in high school she thought she’d be an anesthesiologist. But she didn’t really know what she wanted to be until she completed a career research project as part of her ECHS classwork. Researching different career options, Jordan was struck by the high level of job satisfaction people in the helping professions enjoyed, and she decided to be an orthodontist. Jordan will enroll in dentistry school as soon as she graduates from UTEP.
ECHS was “the opportunity of a lifetime,” Jordan says, and she feels that there should be more early college high schools around the country. “ECHS is such a great opportunity to get ahead—especially for students who don’t know what they want to do; there’s enough general education to help them choose a pathway.” All the teachers Jordan had in high school were very passionate about their work: Teachers always made the work interesting, and now that she’s in college, Jordan says, she really appreciates her ECHS teachers.
But best of all were her fellow students: At her ECHS there were no cliques and no bullying; students supported each other, and no one was considered “weird” because they were serious about school and focused on getting ahead in life. Jordan compares herself to a childhood best friend who attended a traditional high school, got pregnant, has been married for a year, and won’t be going to college. “This girl,” says Jordan, “was very influenced by friends—she made bad choices; if she had gone to ECHS, she would have been influenced by more serious kids and she might be in college now.”
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.