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Above: Shelley Dorner teaches Chemistry 101 to Neenah High School students.

For some students, certain classes can stand as a barrier to fulfilling their dreams. Chemistry is a subject that commonly causes students to hesitate when it comes to pursuing a degree in nursing. This is often due to a multitude of reasons– including course difficulty, level of interest and concerns about not doing well.

To help them bridge that gap between wanting to become a nurse and actually becoming one, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Cooperative Academic Partnership Program (CAPP) offers a Chemistry 101 course at Neenah High School.

Chemistry 101 is the first semester of the one-year chemistry 101/102 course sequence, which is specifically designed to meet the needs of nursing students. All nursing majors are required to take both courses before graduating.

Shelley Dorner, UWO adjunct chemistry professor, said the course she teaches at  Neenah is identical to the course offered on the UW Oshkosh campus and allows those who are planning to attend nursing school the opportunity to earn college chemistry credits through CAPP before leaving high school.

“Taking the course at Neenah High School involves the same things as taking the course on campus. The students complete labs, take University quizzes and University exams,” Dorner said. “Those who have chosen to take the class for CAPP credit earn 0.5 high school credits and 4 UWO credits at the end of the semester.”

For some students, this course can mean the difference between deciding to major in nursing and choosing a different career path.

“A good number of my students struggled through their high school chemistry class, so having this off the list of things they need to do helps remove something that may have been a barrier to becoming a nurse. Often, their chances of success in college chemistry would likely have been slim without an opportunity to gain more practice in high school,” she said. “Failing college chemistry results in an inability to continue toward nursing school.”

Kiersten Lau, a freshman pre-nursing major from Neenah, completed the Chemistry 101 CAPP course last year and is now working toward a nursing degree from UWO. For her, taking the course was a great way to get started on becoming a nurse sooner.

“I knew I would be pursuing a degree in nursing after high school and Mrs. Dorner recommended that I take Chemistry 101 my senior year to help me work toward my goal,” Lau said.

Natalie Flom

“It was nice not having to complete Chemistry 101 during my first semester of college. I was able to take other pre-nursing requirements instead, allowing me to applying to the nursing program sooner.”

Natalie Flom, a UWO freshman finance major from Neenah, had planned to major in nursing when she completed the Chemistry 101 course in high school.

“I originally wanted to go to Oshkosh for nursing school. I knew that by taking Chemistry 101 in high school, I could get ahead in classes and it would be cheaper and I could get more one-on-one time with the teacher than if I took it in college,” Flom said.

Although she decided not to major in nursing, taking the course has still proven to be useful within her current program.

“For my major I need two lab sciences. So, by taking the class, I only needed one more chemistry course when I got to college. I’m happy I chose to take it,” she said.

Sarah Adelson

Sarah Adelson, program assistant for CAPP, said there are a multitude of benefits for students taking CAPP courses before starting college.

“Students can experience the rigor of college, while still in a familiar environment, for only a third of the cost,” Adelson said. “Also, by taking care of some college classes like Chemistry 101 while they are still in high school, they can get into higher-level and major-specific classes sooner once they get to campus. This can either lessen their time and cost toward a degree, or allow them the flexibility to add other opportunities such as study abroad.”

Research has shown that students enrolled in college courses in high school are more successful at transitioning to college and typically perform better than their peers. They also have an advantage over others in the application process.

Since 1975, UWO’s CAPP initiative and collaboration with participating high schools has provided academically capable students an opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school. CAPP courses are primarily taught during the regular school day by certified high school teachers who hold adjunct lecturer status with UW Oshkosh. Students receive both high school and college credit for taking the courses.

Through its partnership with CAPP, Neenah High School has been offering Chemistry 101 every fall semester since 2017. In that time, nearly 40 students have completed the course for CAPP credit. A good number of those students have moved on to nursing school–some choosing to attend UWO.

Students not planning on going into nursing are able to enroll in Chemistry 101 without receiving CAPP credit. Many do this in order to prepare for additional chemistry classes in college and to brush up on their skills before leaving high school. Those interested in going into other areas of medicine also benefit from the class by learning how chemistry is applied within the medical field.

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