BAYONNE, NJ - 21 students entering Bayonne High School in September will take part in a new program that will allow them to take college courses while still in high school, officials announced. Through the partnership with Hudson County Community College (HCCC) the  students will have the chance to earn an Associates of Arts (AA) degree during the same four years they earn a high school diploma.

Superintendent of Schools  John J. Niesz said 26 students were eligible and that 21 decided to take part in the Early College Program in which they will take college courses at Bayonne High School during their first two years and courses at HCCC’s Jersey City campus during their final two years.

While the program officially doesn't start until September, there are activities the students will be involved prior including three introductory sessions later in the spring and a retreat that will allow them to explore the Jersey City Campus.

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Bayonne High School is the first in the county to take part in the program that mirrors those offered in other districts across New Jersey, including one Niesz working in prior to coming to Bayonne.

“We look forward to being these students’ mentors,” said Eric Freeman, provost at HCCC.

Niesz said the students will save time and money since the course work is free.

Aleksandra Vavilova, one of the students who is opted into the program, said she doesn't know what she wants to do for a career. “I think this will introduce me to the basics and give me some ideas,” she said.

Also participating is Rahma Hassan who said she signed up to get experience. “I tried it out and hope to be a big success,” the aspiring pharmacist said.