High-School Dropouts Get a Taste of College at Texas Academy

High-School Dropouts Get a Taste of College at Texas Academy 1

Jennifer Whitney for The Chronicle

James Cruz is earning a welding certificate at the College, Career, and Technology Academy while also studying to get his high-school diploma. "Being in college makes me really proud," he says.

James Cruz was still hurting after failing three out of four exams needed to graduate from high school when a woman knocked on his door. She told him about an academy where dropouts and "noncompleters" could earn diplomas and start college at the same time. Mr. Cruz, whose brushes with gangs and drugs had derailed his studies and dashed his hopes of becoming a border-patrol agent, figured he had nothing to lose.

Two years later, he's one test shy of finishing high school and a few