Fresno Unified students now have an easier path to a historically Black college

By Nico Payne

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FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Fresno Unified is set to launch a new Step Up program that will give students a first-of-its-kind opportunity to earn college credits to a historically Black college before they graduate high school.

The school district is partnering with Benedict College to enable high school students to earn 12 college units by taking virtual classes.

This is the first school district in California to partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for a dual enrollment program.

“This year it’s a pilot program, we’re starting with three high schools in Fresno Unified School District, we will be expanding to every high school in Fresno Unified School District,” says HBCU Step Up Coordinator Zerina Hargrove Brown.

The schools participating in the first round include Bullard, Edison and Sunnyside high schools. Organizers compared the new program to advance placement courses that are already offered to students.

“I could put your kids in an AP class, force them to take the AP test, either get a good grade or don’t get a good grade, that may get on their college transcript, it might not. Or we can put kids in dual enrollment, where they are guaranteed to get transcript credit at the end of that course,” says Superintendent Bob Nelson.

In order to qualify, students will have to maintain a certain GPA and show they’re dedicated to the program.

“You have to be excited about learning, you have to be diligent in regards to your academics and serious about what you want to do in higher learning. As long as you have a 2.0 and you have a passion and the heart, and you want to go to college, then you can be in this program,” says Brown.

For students who are accepted and complete the program, guaranteed admission to Benedict College will be given.

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