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Meet Holland Early College Director Andrea Mehall

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54ed39d7d8dc0Susie Payne-Secretary, Dana Loveland-Counselor, Andrea Mehall-Director
Susie Payne-Secretary, Dana Loveland-Counselor, Andrea Mehall-Director

Andrea Mehall is excited to be back in Holland Public Schools for her third year serving as director of Holland Early College High School.

Mehall, a former high school science teacher, started at Holland Early College in summer 2014, shortly after moving to West Michigan from Phoenix, Arizona where she was faculty at GateWay Early College High School.  Her husband, C.J. Mehall, teaches for the College of Education at Grand Valley State University.  The couple recently moved to Holland, and has two young children.  Their oldest son attends Holland Language Academy.

“I was the type of kid who always loved school,” said Mehall, who grew up in the metro Detroit community of Southgate. “I’d assign my friends  homework, when I played school, and they actually did it.”

She declared a pre-law major when entering Central Michigan University, but eventually realized that teaching was her passion.

The Early College program where she taught in Arizona was a publicly funded charter high school housed inside Gateway Community College. This teaching assignment ignited a passion for Early Colleges, as she saw the impact that this opportunity had on students and their families.  

By design, Early Colleges are all about bridging the gap between high school and college, for students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.  It's about access and opportunity.  These core principles align to Mehall's personal and professional focus, centered on equity and social justice.  

At Holland Early College, students take the Muskegon Community College entrance test at end of their sophomore year. Those who score high enough, and are on-track for high school graduation, are eligible to enroll in the Early College program.  

Once in the program, students take 12 college credits as juniors and 24 credits as seniors.  Students "come back" for a 13th year, in which they take their last high school class off-campus, together with 26 college credits. In this way, Early College students can earn their high school diploma and associate’s degree by the end of their 13th year.

“Most parents see the value of this model and say they wish this had been an option when they were in school,” Mehall said. “In five years of high school, students can earn their diplomas and associate’s degree – or apply all those college credits to a four-year degree – without paying tuition.  Students definitely see the value in getting a jump start on college, they see it as an important stepping stone to reach their goals.”

The harder sell can be to eighth-graders who are reluctant to separate from friends planning to attend Holland High School, Mehall said.

“Some have never seen themselves as college material,” Mehall said. “For some, college was never considered an option, but now it is.”

Mehall and her team at Holland Early College have much to celebrate in the short time the program has been in place, and they look forward to continued program growth and success in the future.