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Grace Lawlor

Helena High School senior Grace Lawlor attends an intro to anthrozoology class Tuesday at Carroll College. 

Helena High School senior Grace Lawlor won’t have to wait until she graduates to see if Carroll College’s anthrozoology program is a good fit for her, because she’s already enrolled in it.

“It’s a nice way to figure out if this is something I want to do with my life,” Lawlor said after finding a seat in her intro to anthrozoology class Tuesday at Carroll College. “ … It’s only offered at Carroll as a major, so if I want to go into this field this is where I need to be, and it’s nice to be able to experience the class and see if I like it.”

Lawlor is one of the 99 students enrolled in the new Early Access program, which allows qualified high school juniors and seniors to take up to two Carroll College classes per semester tuition-free. Unlike the dual enrollment program that allows students to earn college credits for courses taught by their own teachers in their own high schools, the Early Access program brings students to campus to learn along with Carroll College's undergraduates. 

“I think it’s a really great opportunity to be not only in a college-level class, but a true college class while still in high school to get the experience,” Lawlor said. “It’s a lot different from high school classes. I feel more independent, and I feel like I’m given more responsibility and I’m becoming an adult instead of just being some little high school student.”

Becky deMontigny, another Helena High senior taking intro to anthrozoology, is just grateful for the opportunity to get a head start on her college career.

“I thought it would be a good learning experience for when I actually go to college next year,” she said. “It’ll get me on the right path also, from the classes that I want to take there, and get a couple of credits under my belt to begin with and just get used to the college experience.”

The Early Access program is available to all juniors and seniors with a GPA of 3.25 or greater in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson and Broadwater counties. After announcing the program in June, Carroll College enrolled 44 students from Helena High School, 32 from Capital High School, 10 from St. Andrew School, two from Broadwater High School in Townsend and one from Jefferson High School in Boulder. The rest of the participating students are home-schooled.

“We were going to be happy with 15-20 students,” Carroll College President John Cech said. “When I saw that we actually enrolled 99, I was so pleased.”

While Carroll College does not necessarily cap the number of students who can participate, Cech said, “we have a delicate balance.”

“We want to be sure that our full-time Carroll students do register and that they are able to secure the courses that they want like we did this year,” he said. “ … Right now I think it’s working great, and we’re handling the traffic nicely and the Carroll students are really enjoying the participation of the high school students, as are the faculty.”

Cech said 35 undergraduate courses are available to the participating high schoolers, and the most popular classes this semester are intro to business, general psychology, intro to anthrozoology, intro to political science and math.

“Those are the ones that got big chunks of students,” he said. “Then we have everything from ancient Greek to courses such as acrylic painting, film and TV production, social media and communication.”


Maria Suthers teaches intro to anthrozoology at Carroll College on Tuesday. The class is popular with high school students in the Early Access program. Anthrozoology is the study of interactions between humans and other animals, therefore it's no surprise to have four-legged visitors in the classroom.

The implementation of the program didn’t come without some challenges, as not all class schedules line up perfectly and the commute to Carroll College can eat into the day.

However, Cech said the program has received strong support from the principals of the participating high schools.

“Everybody just worked together to make it happen, and I believe we were able to accommodate all the students,” he said. “I don’t think we had to turn anyone away.”

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