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Program offers North Shore Catholic high school students college credit

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The three institutions -- one Catholic college and two Catholic high schools -- are within several miles of each other, but they are linked by more than geography.

Marian Court College in Swampscott enjoys a productive partnership with St. Mary's High School in Lynn and Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody. The centerpiece of the relationship is a dual enrollment program, whereby high school students can earn college credits without ever leaving their building.

Marian Court College started the dual enrollment program at St. Mary's in 2008, offering a 3-credit criminal justice course taught by a Marian Court professor.

The program was instituted by professor Fran Brennan, who started the criminal justice department at Marian Court in 1996. Brennan taught the class at St. Mary's until the second semester of this academic year when he fell ill. He passed away in April.

"Dual enrollment offers our students a great opportunity to experience a college-level curriculum, which is invaluable," said St. Mary's Principal Dr. Mark DiFabio.

Devaney Sloan took a college criminal justice course, taught by Brennan, as a student at St. Mary's. That led to her attending Marian Court and majoring in criminal justice. She became one of the college's first-ever four-year graduates this spring.

"Professor Brennan inspired me so much," Sloan said. "He is the reason I went to Marian Court. It was the perfect fit for me."

Sloan was one of two St. Mary's alumni -- along with Jessica Gambale of Lynn -- to graduate from Marian Court this year, while there are five undergrads at Marian Court who went to St. Mary's.

The dual enrollment program expanded to Bishop Fenwick last fall, when a course in entrepreneurship was offered. Criminal justice was offered at Fenwick this spring, and about 40 Fenwick juniors and seniors overall have taken advantage of the opportunity.

"It has been very well received," said Fenwick Principal Brother Thomas Zoppo, FSC. "It's a good way for our school to offer additional electives and it gives students the opportunity to see what it's like to be in a college classroom. The added bonus is they receive three college credits."

Marian Court President Dr. Denise Hammon said the college, founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1964, values its association with the two local Catholic high schools.

"Marian Court is grounded in the Mercy values of compassion, integrity, justice, and service," Hammon said. "We greatly respect the job St. Mary's and Bishop Fenwick do in providing students academic excellence in the context of a Catholic education. We are proud to be partners in their mission."

"Marian Court has been a very gracious partner," Brother Zoppo said. "They are very easy to work with and very accommodating."

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