Polk State’s public, charter collegiate high schools are unlike any others in the county.
Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate in Winter Haven and Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School allow students to fulfill high school requirements while also earning college credit.
It’s a setup that means students barely old enough to drive take classes alongside those preparing for second careers. Students who are not yet old enough to vote earn their associate degrees.
The study at the schools is rigorous, the experience is intense.
But that’s not to say that students sacrifice any aspect of traditional high school. Students may take part in all of the clubs, sports and activities offered by their former schools – as well as those offered through the collegiate high schools.
The result: Collegiate high school students create bonds and memories that will last a lifetime, all while getting an invaluable head start on their college careers.
Just ask Kaitlyn Collier, who transferred to Polk State Lakeland Collegiate at the start of her junior year.
“I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything by coming here,” said Collier, a Bartow resident and the school’s senior class president.
Collier is on track to graduate with both her high school diploma and associate degree. She hopes to one day own her own bakery.
Collier participates in the National Honor Society and Student Government Association at Polk State Lakeland Collegiate. She’s also helping to plan the school’s upcoming prom at Winter Haven’s Lake Region Yacht & Country Club — she’s hoping for a “Midnight in Paris” theme.
“I’m really involved in activities and everyone is really close-knit. I’ve loved my experience here,” she said.
When Collier’s classmate, Brionne Riles, transferred to Polk State Lakeland Collegiate, she worried about losing friendships forged at her old school, and she didn’t want to miss the pep rallies and sporting events that she loved so much.
It turns out she had nothing to worry about, said the North Lakeland resident who aspires to be a pharmacist. Her friendships are still intact, and she has participated activities and events at her former school.
“Plus, I have a lot more freedom because I’m at college. This is how I explain it to people: Middle school helps you transition from elementary school to high school. Collegiate high school helps you transition from high school to college. You have everything that you like about high school, but you’re earning college credit and adjusting to college life,” she said.
At Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate, senior Caleb Miller still competes on the rifle team at his former school and is a member of its Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. After his classes are finished for the day, he heads back to his old school for those activities, and he never feels out of place among his former classmates.
“We’re all still really good friends. I went to my old school’s homecoming, and I got to go to two proms last year – the one for my old school and the one for Polk State Chain of Lakes,” said Miller, a Winter Haven resident.
Miller is also president of the Polk State Chain of Lakes Chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals. He is pursuing an Associate in Science in Computer Systems and Business Analysis and plans to become a graphic designer.
Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate Senior Andrea Yancey said she’s had experiences she is certain she wouldn’t have had at her former school.
Both collegiate high schools emphasize work-based learning, and require students to complete work-based study.
That emphasis on real life experience led Yancey to pursue a weeklong summer internship with J.P. Morgan in Atlanta.
“I got to learn the jargon of the financial industry, and how to read stocks,” said the Haines City resident who plans to one day become either a stock broker or financial advisor. “It was so exciting and it made me even more certain of my career choice.”
Sharnae Tarver, a junior at Polk State Chain of Lakes College and an Auburndale resident, said she too has had a positive high school experience, though there is one thing it’s lacking: “There’s no drama. Everyone here gets along and we’re all here for a purpose. We’re all really serious about school,” she said.
Current high school sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply to the schools. Requirements include a minimum 2.5 grade-point average and a passing score on the PERT (Postsecondary Education Readiness Test).
There is no cost to students who attend the collegiate high schools.
Prospective students are encouraged to attend one of the following information sessions:
Polk State College Lakeland Campus, 3425 Winter Lake Road
Lakeland Technology Building (LTB) auditorium
Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m.
Polk State Winter Haven Campus, 999 Ave. H N.E.
Student Center (WST) 126
Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m.
Applications will be available at the information sessions or at the school offices. The application deadline for lottery admission is March 2.
For more information, visit www.polk.edu or call Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate at 863-298-6800 or Polk State Lakeland Collegiate at 863-669-2322.