The Donna Independent School District teamed up with The University of Texas at Austin to bring a unique college-ready program to students at the district’s two high schools.

The dual enrollment program, offered by UT Austin called OnRamps, brings the college experience to the high school classroom, transforming how students learn and prepare for post-secondary success.

Research conducted by OnRamps shows that many of the best-prepared students — even those who took the most rigorous high school work offered — struggled in entry-level courses at flagship and other universities. OnRamps is designed to meet those challenges and help students prepare to follow a path to college success while earning three hours of UT Austin college credit. OnRamps courses include English/Language Arts, Pre-Calculus, Statistics, Computer Science, Geoscience and Physics. The courses are designed by UT Austin faculty and delivered on campus by teachers.

Donna High School and Donna North High School are participating in the program for the first time.

At Donna High, 92 students enrolled in OnRamps at the start of this school year. Principal Nancy Castillo endorses David T. Conley’s book Getting Ready for College, Careers, and the Common Core, which provides insight into what it takes students to be college and career ready.  “DISD has embarked in a collaborative effort to support the college-and career-ready student with UT OnRamps,” Castillo said. “The book provides our students with a real college experience which will better prepare them with the rigor of college studies.”

At Donna North, 91 students are enrolled in one or more of the OnRamps courses offered. Principal Belinda Vega said the students will use the same digital tools and online access as full-time UT Austin students. “In essence, our students are enrolled in a true hybrid course where they complete part of their course online, with their UT Austin professor and complete the other part through face-to-face instruction with our own Donna North High school teacher,” Vega said.

The students are excited about this opportunity because it allows them to put the responsibility of learning in their hands.

“The UT OnRamps program has offered me a way to be prepared for my future success in college. This opportunity serves a great purpose for students in high school who otherwise would not have the opportunity to be enrolled in a college class,” Donna High School senior Tiffany Castillo said.

“The UT program gives a good example of what to expect from a college course. It greatly benefits us since it provides the rigor and material of a college course without it being overwhelming,” Donna North High School senior Cristina Reyes said.

Participating teachers will also benefit from the program. They will gain full affiliate status with UT Austin and knowledge through collaboration with leading professors in math, science and rhetoric. They will also participate in a state-wide community of teachers, UT faculty, and staff through scheduled learning and collaborative activities. With these valuable career skills, the teachers said it will help them better prepare their students.

The parents of OnRamps students will benefit as well. The program offers significant cost savings on college credit. The district will be reimbursed by the state for any funds used for the project.