• ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

    Students from St. Louis Public Schools have a chance to earn two free years of college with the district's Early College Academy.

    Rayonte Childs says it was an easy decision to participate. 

    "It was a great opportunity and it was free college. So I was thinking it was really important for me to take this step," said Childs.

    He is one of the 29 high school students enrolled in the program. 

    "It’s really unbelievable. I would never think that I would be in college at 16. It was like always something you would always see on the movies," said Childs.

    Until 2018, students will not only earn their high school diploma but also their associates degree from St. Louis Community College.

    Rick Cusumano, high school counselor, says The St. Louis Public Schools Early College Academy gives a leg up to students who have already determined their career field. 

    "With the price of college these days and the student loan debt, I mean these students are at a major advantage to basically get two free years ahead of the game," said Cusumano.

    He says these high school students are ready to tackle college. 

    "I think [at] this level, student[s] wants to be challenged, and they are enjoying the challenge," said Cusumano.

    The college courses are not the only learning curve these students face.

    "In the classroom, it’s real diverse. Way different than my high school," said Childs. "There's people in there old enough to be my grandparents. It’s just real different."

    Emani Jennings, high school junior, says she had to learn better time management skills, but she believes an associates degree is worth making adjustments. 

    "This is two free years of college getting done early," said Jennings.

    Students with at least a 3.5 GPA after their sophomore year must take a placement test to qualify for the program.

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