ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - High school students are getting a leg up on college education. There are more than 40 early college high schools in Texas, three of which are in East Texas. They allow freshman to take college level courses through their senior year, earning an Associate's Degree weeks before they graduate from high school.
Students were leaving one campus and heading to another.
"All this work we do now is gonna pay off eventually," said Fatima Torres.
Some students are as young as 14 years old.
"I mean it's, goodness, it's hard!" said Tan-Tinisha Ray. "The work is hard."
It's a unique opportunity for freshman and sophomores to take college classes, earning up to 60 college credits. The students enrolled in the Pinnacle Program at Athens High don't pay a dime for their education. Tuition and books are free. And, every student has their own laptop.
"They're learning how to interact with each other," said Gay-Lynn Hayes, a councilor at Athens ISD. "They're learning how to interact with adults. They are cultivating life long relationships."
Admission is based on grades, good conduct, economics and other factors. At-risk, low-income students who would otherwise fall through the cracks now have a crack at a college education.
"My mom can barely read and write and my dad, he reads and writes, but they made it to like 6th grade in Mexico and my dad first grades," said Fatima Torres, a sophomore.
"I look at myself as a regular high school student, but with more advantages and more opportunities to get a better education," said Ray.
Torres wants to travel the world as a doctor.
"I know there's a lot of people that need help but it's not given to them, and I get so much out of Pinnacle that I think I should give back," said Torres.
"If you let students believe that there's nothing that they cannot do - there nothing they cannot do," said Hayes.
The proof is in the classroom. Carthage and Marshall High are the only other two high schools that offer early college programs in East Texas.