A college degree is becoming increasingly necessary in order for young people to attain the jobs they want, and yet getting to and through college in some ways has never been more challenging. Many students are ill-prepared when they arrive, others lack the “soft” skills necessary to succeed in a postsecondary environment, and the cost of college is immense. For first-generation college students, these challenges can be daunting.

The Charles School (TCS), a Columbus charter high school that is part of the Graham Family of Schools, partners with Ohio Dominican University to provide an early college experience to students. Students can graduate with up to 62 hours of college credit, tuition free, and earn a high school diploma as well as an associate’s degree in a five-year program.

TCS and other high-quality charter options like it illuminate a path to and through college for many students like Chris Sumlin, profiled in this report. May his compelling story encourage us to support any school option that is effective at closing the college-going gap and setting young people up for success.