Westfield State University and Holyoke Community College Bring Early College to HHS

Holyoke High’s two new Early College programs aim to better prepare to students to transition out of high school and earn free college credit.


Two HHS students enrolled in The Westfield Promise enjoy their time on the University campus.

Holyoke Public Schools have been granted the designation of an “early adopter” for the Department of Secondary Education’s new Early College program. In this program, students have an opportunity to both learn how to be successful in college and earn up to 12 free transferrable college credits.

There are two schools working with Holyoke High School: Westfield State University and Holyoke Community College.


The Westfield Promise is Westfield State University’s innovative early college program designed to benefit both underrepresented students and first-generation college students. This program begins with juniors in high school to taking one or two co-taught classes that are taught by both a high school teacher and a college professor. This year, The Westfield Promise offered Holyoke High juniors a chance to take Composition 101, co-taught by HHS teacher Mr. Courchesne and Westfield State Comp Director Jennifer DeGrazia. The class takes place on campus at Holyoke High School.

’’I like the program because we are able to experience college and the freedom it gives,” said Daruis Diaz ’19, a student currently in the Westfield Promise program. “And it also prepares us for the amount of work and how classes are run so we will be ready when we attend college.”

Next year, Westfield hopes to offer a second co-taught class in a different subject for junior year.

In their senior year, Westfield Promise students will be eligible to take two additional college courses on the Westfield University campus. The program is currently running in schools in Holyoke, Westfield, and Springfield.

“We aim to close the achievement gap that disproportionately affects students in lower-income communities, English language learners, students with disabilities and students of color,’’ said Dr. Ramon S. Torrechilha, President of Westfield State University. Dr. Torrechiha hopes more students will be able to see themselves attending a four-year university.

In addition to the class, Westfield also provides students with an opportunity to get a “feel” for college: in addition to an overnight summer orientation at the university, students also go to the campus for guest speakers, eating in the dining hall, exploring the library, and other hands-on experiences.


Unlike the Westfield Promise, Holyoke’s second Early College program beings in sophomore year: for the HHC Early College pathway, students will be take a college preparation course in addition to an HCC course that aligns to the sophomore’s academy theme. Students in the Technology, Engineering, & Design Academy, for example, will spend in the Fall semester in a course called “College Readiness and Acceleration”, and in the Spring semester will take Robotics taught by a HCC professor but taking place on the HHS campus. The class will be built into the student’s schedule.

All Early College participants are required to enroll in the course entitled, “College Readiness Acceleration.” This course is designed to support students in accelerating the organizational, time management, and academic skills needed for success in college. The curriculum for the course comes from AVID from the College Board and Accuplacer Diagnostics: My Foundations Lab. Students will also have personalized supports through tutoring, online learning, and group activities. The teacher of the College Readiness Acceleration course will serve as an “advisor” to the students during their initial year of the program.

“The Holyoke Community College Early College program is a fantastic way to get a taste of college while you’re still in high school,” says Holyoke Community College President Christina Royal. “Students have access to campus activities, events, and facilities – and they earn credit for high school as well as transferable college credit.”

Christine Royal, president of HCC, is excited about Early College at Holyoke High.

“I wish every student could have this opportunity,” she adds.

Like the Westfield Promise, students will be eligible to move their Early College classes off the HHS campus and onto the college campus by senior year. The hope is to make the transition out of high school easier for students while saving them some money on college credit.

“Both [the Westfield and HCC] Early College grants allow us to plan dynamic pathways (aligned to our Linked Learning Academies) to raise the educational rigor for our students,” said Holyoke Public Schools Receiver Dr. Stephen Zrike. “These resources get us closer to our vision of ensuring that as many HPS students graduate with a high school diploma plus college credit and workplace certificates as possible.”

Currently, spots for both Early College programs are limited, and students who show interest will have to apply. Applications will be due by March Applications will go home with students by Friday March 9, with information sessions for parents and families being held March 13 from 2:15-3:15 and March 14 from 5-6pm. Both sessions will be at HHS North in the Shevlin Studio.