Heba Elmountassir at the College's Northeast Regional Center

Graduating from High School with an Associate Degree. Next Stop: University of Pennsylvania

In spring 2020, Heba Elmountassir will graduate from Community College of Philadelphia with an associate degree in Health Care Studies and a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. Just 18 years old, Heba will receive her high school diploma from MaST Community Charter School this spring as well.

Heba applied for early admission to the University of Pennsylvania in fall 2019, along with the QuestBridge Scholarship Program, and received replies from both institutions at the same time. “I was surprised,'' she said when we spoke to her in December 2019. “I was just really grateful for everyone who helped me through it and I was grateful to QuestBridge for picking me.”

MaST Community Charter School is one of several high schools in the area that work with the College to provide a dual enrollment opportunity to high school students. Though dual enrollment is open to all high school students, a few programs, like MaST Community Charter’s MC² program, allow students to come to the college to take courses during the school day. Through this program Heba began taking up to four college courses each semester beginning in her sophomore year. She is one of approximately 736 high school students enrolled in classes at Community College of Philadelphia. This spring she will receive her associate degree alongside 10 of her classmates at MaST Community Charter School. When asked why she chose to enroll in the MC² program, she explained that she saw very early on how it would allow her to begin advancing toward her career while she was still in high school.

“I knew that I wanted to go to med school since about 8th grade,” Heba said. “I knew that CCP would help me get there. Because we were introduced to topics that were harder in biology, I realized that’s [what] I want to study… I felt that taking college classes earlier on allowed me to understand what college students actually go through.”

Heba is an avid volunteer, and plans to become an ER doctor. She says that she was attracted to the University of Pennsylvania partly because of the volunteer opportunities offered through its network of hospitals and medical clinics all across Philadelphia. In addition to her altruism and excellent grades, Heba believes that her pending associate degree helped her to stand out from the competition. “I feel like it played a really big part in U Penn accepting me,'' she said, “because they saw that I was able to take all the classes at college and still get good grades.”

“We have bio classes at my high school but I think the college classes here are more intensive,” Heba said. She explained how the MC² program also gave her access to a wider variety of elective courses, “I took a public speaking class... I think I learned a lot from that class and I wouldn’t have had the chance to take it in my high school.”

Although starting college at 15 years old isn’t easy, Heba said that the staff and faculty at Community College of Philadelphia’s Northeast Regional Center helped to bridge the gap in her academic experiences between the secondary and undergraduate programs.

“My teachers at CCP were always willing to meet with me after class,” she said. “I had one math teacher who really took interest in me and helped me a lot throughout the entire class. She actually wrote my letter of recommendation for U Penn, so she was always there for me if I had questions.”

In light of her extraordinary accomplishments, it’s no wonder that Heba recommends that other high school students take advantage of the College’s dual enrollment options. “It’s helped me a lot… college

really makes you be more independent and you have to work on your own schedule… I like how free you are in college.”

As for helpful hints for those students who plan to enroll in the program, Heba said, “Some advice I would give to a high school freshman who was thinking about enrolling in the MC² program is that they should definitely go for it, don’t procrastinate, because once I entered college I realized that you have to try and get things done as fast as possible. And I would say enjoy your time here because my time is ending and I enjoyed every minute of it.”