“What happens to a dream deferred?” These words echoed through my mind as we embarked upon the 2020-2021 school year. Langston Hughes couldn’t have known that the 2020 pandemic had the potential to defer many of the dreams for the Class of 2021. However, our principal at Whites Creek High School had a vision and a passion to turn those dreams into a reality. For many of our students, that is exactly what happened.

Through the dual enrollment program at Whites Creek, we have been able to provide students with the tools to navigate their postsecondary options through individualized counseling sessions, postsecondary presentations provided by our counseling team, and real-world opportunities provided by community guest speakers. These resources equip students with firsthand information to ensure their success at any postsecondary school; they impact students in a very positive and meaningful way.

Given the drop in community college enrollment this past fall and what we know about the importance of a college degree, at Whites Creek we realized we had to do more to improve student opportunity. Seeing the data in SCORE’s By The Numbers report only reinforced our determination. The report finds that Tennesseans who complete higher education earn 1.5 times more, on average, than those who do not pursue any higher education after high school. It is clear that we must set up our high school graduates to succeed in higher ed and give them greater access to life opportunities beyond the classroom.

After reviewing the data in By The Numbers and realizing how important these programs are for students, the administration at Whites Creek developed a plan that will allow the dual enrollment and postsecondary advising programs to thrive at Whites Creek. In turn, we know that students will thrive.

Thanks to these programs, many of our students will matriculate on to further their dreams of becoming productive citizens through two-year and four-year institutions. For example, valedictorian Tahil Sage will attend Volunteer State Community College for two years before transferring to a four-year university. He said that “being in the dual enrollment program afforded me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and insight into college classes.” Tahil realized that taking advantage of credits through dual enrollment would further propel him toward his dream of working in music management.

Another student, Alante Waller, realized that dual enrollment pushed her beyond what she knew to be her limits and led her to realize that her expectations were too small. “I thought that I could only attend a local college, because I didn’t realize how much I was capable of achieving. But now I know that I can do anything I put my mind to.” Alante plans to attend the University of Memphis in the fall — due, in part, to the confidence she gained through dual enrollment and postsecondary advising offered at Whites Creek High School.

A friend once told me, “there is nothing like intel.” Because we use data to drive all of our decisions at Whites Creek, we realize that our students can excel to great lengths if armed with the right intel. Because of the valuable information and data in the By the Numbers report, we could see how many of the students would benefit from local community colleges and four-year state universities.

At Whites Creek High School, we turned our passion into promise by strengthening postsecondary opportunities for students. The apex of our standard is success, and we strive each day to be better than the day before, to provide our students and community with valuable resources that equip them to navigate and thrive in this global community.

We believe that every student deserves the chance to soar beyond the clouds and realize his or her greatest potential. By allowing the data in By The Numbers to highlight ways that we can support students, we’re working hard to ensure students have every opportunity to achieve that success.

Sheree Cumberlander is the English IV and dual enrollment teacher at Whites Creek High School. She has been serving the Nashville community as an educator for the past 13 years. She enjoys helping students express themselves through literature and reach their fullest potential.

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