WNC’s seasoned Jump Start Program adding to success

Courtesy Steve Yingling, Western Nevada College

Affordable. High student success rates. Supplemental Instruction. Students mature.

Now in its third year, Western Nevada College’s Jump Start College has evolved into a highly successful, dynamic program that is providing a variety of higher education benefits to Nevada high school students.

Besides the extraordinary opportunity for students to receive up to an associate degree before graduating from high school, the dual-credit program is saving parents a significant amount of money and delivering a high rate of success for their children in the classroom.


“Do you want to graduate from college on a Monday and from your high school that Friday? Jump Start is making that a reality for students across Nevada,” said WNC Dean of Students John Kinkella.

Kinkella, the visionary of WNC’s Jump Start program, hasn’t let the college head-start program to stagnate after introducing it in 2014.

The growing Jump Start College program now serves 379 total students spanning five Northern Nevada school districts and reaches as far south as the Nevada Virtual Academy in Las Vegas. But students attending public schools aren’t the only ones benefitting. Nearly 30 home-school students are also enrolled in the program.

Photo courtesy WNC
Jump Start graduates receive their diplomas at the 45th annual Western Nevada College Commencement ceremony on May 23, 2016, in Carson City. WNC’s first Jump Start graduation class included 27 students.

Success stories

As many as 100 students are expected to receive their associate degree in May, nearly four times as many grads as a year ago.

High schools screen their students beforehand to determine who qualifies as good candidates for WNC’s Jump Start College. A willingness to work hard and a desire to start higher education earlier than most have translated into a high success rate in the classroom.

Fernley High School students are proving that their college coursework is a priority and that they are more than mentally up to the task of succeeding in a college setting as juniors and seniors. They have buckled down for a perfect course pass rate of 100 percent during the fall semester, while Nevada Virtual Academy (NVA) and Carson High School enrollees showed their diligent dedication and commitment to the program with 99.2 and 98.3 percent course pass rates, respectively.

Furthermore, 75 percent of NVA students are earning A’s in their courses and 96.9 percent are producing A’s or B’s. At Fernley, 69.5 percent of students are generating A’s and 90.2 percent are receiving A’s or B’s. More than two-thirds of Carson High students are receiving A’s or B’s.

Supplemental Instruction Eases Transition

Why are these students so successful in a college classroom as 16- and 17-year-olds?

“We talk about maturity being so important in their success,” said Tricia Wentz, WNC’s Jump Start counselor and coordinator of outreach. “The juniors, it’s interesting, come to us with a high degree of maturity already.”

But Wentz said that it takes many of the students a month or so to adjust to the demands of the program, as well as the time commitment necessary to succeed long term.

“They come to us very prepared, but there always is the adjustment. That is the hard part for the students and the parents,” Wentz said.

As students struggle initially, there is a support system in place so they don’t become overwhelmed and abandon their enormous opportunity. An important component of the Jump Start program is the supplemental instruction the students receive. Cohort coaches serve as peer mentors and sit in class with the students, and orchestrate a multi-purpose workshop once a week.

“They review, they look ahead, they reinforce the concepts of the classes and they prepare students for what is coming up,” Wentz said of the coaches. “The coaches also mentor the students, helping the students when their first grades come in if they are not as good as what they are used to in high school. They help them make the adjustments that are necessary, such as allocating more time to studying and more time to the classes.”

Eventually, the Jump Start students designate higher education as a top priority.

“Some of them are 16 years old, and they are making that adjustment very early in life,” Wentz said. “This extra support, this coaching support, they get through it with a lot of success. When you compare it to the success of the general population, it’s significant.”

By the time the second semester rolls around, Wentz said the goal is to have the students become less reliant on the coaches. The students become more autonomous as they pursue their academic goals but still have the cohort coaches to turn to if necessary.

“While many students are aiming for degrees that transfer to a university, some of them decide that they are interested in nursing or other Associate of Applied Science programs and don’t intend to transfer,” Wentz said. “Getting them in the right classes to meet those goals is a large part of what I did in the fall to help them get ready for their spring registration so that their associate degree transfers to the program they are looking at.”

To loosen the course load on these young students, WNC offers them the opportunity to take accelerated classes before the fall and spring semesters.

“It helps divide that workload a little bit, with the intention of getting that 60 units for their associate degree by the end of their senior high school year,” Wentz said.

Photo by Cathleen Allison
Teaching Assistant Travis McDonald, right, works with Byron Farmer and Hayley Chick, both 17, in a Western Nevada College manufacturing hub at Silver Stage High School on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.


For students who have the aptitude and dedication to pursue a college education early, they will be saving themselves and their parents thousands of dollars. The average WNC students are charged $91 per class unit for lower division courses. While this is more than two times less than what the state universities are charging their freshmen and sophomores, the costs can mount when the many other costs of living on your own are included.

Fortunately for the Jump Start students and their families, the school districts involved in the program are either paying 100 percent of the costs or are offering incentives to cover future expenses.

Currently, Storey County School District covers 100 percent of the costs for Virginia City High School students, while Lyon County pays 100 percent of its students’ enrollment costs if they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch status. Otherwise, Lyon County foots 50 percent of the costs.

State grant funding enables Carson City School District to put its students through the Jump Start program at no cost. Carson High School’s seniors are now in their third year participating in Jump Start College, and for the first time, juniors have joined the program in the fall.

Douglas County School provides Douglas High School students with an incentive-based program. Seniors will take two semesters of English and math classes. Parents pay for the first semester, but if the student passes their fall classes, the district covers the cost of the second semester.

In Churchill County, Churchill County School District began picking up 100 percent of tuition costs for Churchill County High School students in the 2015-16 school year.

Many of these districts have also become immersed in the Career and Technical Education Jump Start program. For the fall 2017 semester, Jump Start students will be able to gain industry-endorsed credentials and certifications in automotive mechanics, manufacturing, construction, business, collision repair and computer information technology at the Carson City campus.

While empowering their students to expedite their college education, these generous school districts are saving students’ substantial money. If you factor in the higher cost of tuition at state universities, as well as food and lodging (not to mention many other costs), the savings reach well into five figures. This can be the difference sometimes whether a student even pursues a higher education.

School districts periodically hold parent nights so they can become familiar with WNC’s Jump Start College. Carson High School is planning an Options Night at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19 at the high school.

For more information about the Jump Start College, phone 775-445-3275 or go to

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