As a sophomore in high school, Ashé West began a program she didn’t know would change her life.
She learned about a partnership between the IUPUI SPAN Division and IPS Crispus Attucks High School that would allow her to take college classes and prepare for college while still in high school.
The partnership, which began in 2007, has helped more than 300 students earn college credits while still in high school. In addition to earning credits, students also get the chance to take classes on the IUPUI campus and participate in college readiness programs, including a summer program on campus.
Ashé’s first class was an English composition course. She wasn’t nervous about the classwork; she was nervous about being on campus with college students.
“I think I was more nervous about the social aspect of it,” she said.
Ashé did well in the class, and made several friends. She continued taking classes, including Spanish courses that helped her build her skills toward becoming bilingual, a goal she developed while she was a cultural exchange student in Tlaxcala, Mexico, during high school.
As graduation neared, Ashé developed a plan for her next steps and planned to attend Spelman College. She hadn’t planned on going to IUPUI because she was used to it after taking classes there for two years while in high school.
But after paying her room and board deposit through money she saved while working, she realized she wouldn’t be able to go because she didn’t have the money. She enrolled at IUPUI, where she was able to live with her family while attending classes to save money. She soon learned how much of an advantage her experience at IUPUI in high school had given her, especially with how to communicate professionally with her professors — many of whom she still talks to now.
“I knew how to survive in college as a junior in high school, so by the time I was going to go to college, simple things like how to balance classes and study time or finding out which style of study works for me, I already had the chance to do that,” she said.
Ashé is grateful for the program and the lessons it allowed her to learn to be successful in college. She knows that isn’t always the case for her peers, especially African American and Latinx students that may struggle to finish college, she said.
Now, Ashé is a Spanish teacher at Christel House Academy, a charter school in Indianapolis, after graduating from IUPUI. The job allows her to interact with people from many different cultures and backgrounds.
Because of the classes she was able to take in high school, participating in the 21st Century Scholar program, and several scholarships she received, Ashé was able to graduate without any student loans.
“It changed my life. My family didn’t have a lot of money. And I graduated with no student loan debt, and I am really grateful for that,” she said.