GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Community College are showing off their partnership and what it can do for students.

Among the opportunities made possible through the partnership is the chance for students at Ottawa Hills High School to earn college credit at GRCC while they’re still in high school.

“We know that education is the key. And if you can catch children, young people, while they’re in school to do both, it is beyond their dream,” GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.

Weatherall Neal is a GRCC alum. She earned her associate’s degree by going to night school for four years. That’s why paving a smooth path to higher education for current GRPS students is so important to her.

Fatemeh Abedi is among about 50 Ottawa Hills students dual-enrolled through GRCC’s Early/Middle College program. GRPS is paying her tuition.

“I don’t know any student who has the cash in the area that I’m living in right now. It’s not affordable in any way. To get that opportunity means a lot,” Abedi said.

The program starts by helping students make the transition with a college introductory class.

“You learn about how to handle classes, how to understand your relationships with your professors, how to get adjusted from high school to the college environment,” Abedi said.

“These are children we thought they thought couldn’t do it. And here they are getting their high school diploma and they’re also getting college credit,” Weatherall Neal said.

Weatherall Neal cited an increase of 68 percent for African-American students and a 231 percent increase in Hispanic students who are dual-enrolled since the district started footing the bill. It’s working for Abedi. Her future has become much more clear.

“From the professors I had, I think I really do want to go on and actually learn in a college environment,” Abedi said.

GRPS is extending the GRCC Early/Middle College program and expects to have 60 students in it by next year.