Through a unique arrangement between the now-closed Regina High School and its South Euclid neighbor, Notre Dame College, 30 students are able to combine their senior year of high school with what amounts to their freshman year of college.
"Yesterday, I was at my singing class, and they're like, introduce yourselves, what year are you?" says Sarah Bender, who spent her freshman through junior years at Regina High School. "And I was like, I don't know. Do I call myself a senior? Do I tell them I'm a freshman?"
Sarah told them she is in the SAND Program. It stands for Seniors at Notre Dame, the opportunity for the Regina girls to stay together for their senior year and earn college credits.
When the announcement was made that Regina would close in June, 2010, Sarah's reaction was like that of most of the then-junior class.
"I had no idea where I was going to go," she told WKYC. "Then I heard the news and I was like, this is going to be great. And it turned out to be great and I'm really liking it."
The 30 students take some strictly high school classes, and others which can earn them up to a full year of transferable college credit, says SAND Director Rosemay Lips.
"They're taking everything from physics, anatomy, psychology, anthropology, just a wide variety of classes," she explained.
"For example, political science and government class they're all together and it's strictly high school credit, then there are two levels of English, high school and college."
The program is similar to an attempt the state of Ohio began in 2008 with its Senior to Sophomore initiative, says Roger Abood, Notre Dame College's coordinator for dual enrollment.
"This is really a great spinoff of what that program (Senior to Sophomore) intended to be," Abood said. "We are very confident these ladies can handle the rigor of a college course and the structure of a college curriculum."
Abood says the Regina girls were selected for their ability to handle the dual enrollment.
"I think it's going to be a challenge and we told them that from the beginning," he told WKYC, "but they seem to be very well-equipped to do this."
"If nothing else, it will show that it is a possibility, a real viable alternative, for those young people who are adequately prepared in high school to transition easily into a college setting," Abood said.
The students who complete this year of dual enrollment will actually earn a Regina High School Class of 2011 diploma, even though the school is officially closed and the building is being converted to Notre Dame College classrooms and offices.
"It means a lot because, even though the school is closed," says Clare Larry, who displayed her student ID card which has the logos of both Regina and Notre Dame.
"It feels great to know that I can still get the diploma from Regina and I don't have to go anywhere else."