Ashtosh Bhandari

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Ashtosh Bhandari

Ashtosh Bhandari hasn’t yet graduated from B.M.C. Durfee High School, but he’s not letting that stop him from earning college credit.

The high school senior has already completed several classes at Bristol Community College as part of Bristol’s College Access Dual Enrollment program.

“It’s actually pretty amazing,” Ashtosh said. “You get the college experience while you’re still in high school.”

The College Access Dual Enroll-

ment program allows high school students from more than 30 districts to complete courses at Bristol and eventually attain an early college degree.

Some 400 or more high school students in the districts served take early college classes at Bristol each semester.

“The districts see value in offering college classes,” said Carlos Avila, Bristol Associate Director of College Access. “We offer a significant number of courses.”

Ashtosh transferred to Durfee when his family moved from Nepal and settled in Fall River. Because he was a good student, his guidance counselors saw his potential and introduced him to the College Access Dual Enrollment program.

“I knew right away he was a motivated student,” said Durfee Guidance Counselor Rachel Fellows. “I knew he would be a good fit for the program.” 

“It’s actually amazing. You get the college experience while you’re still in high school.”

Amazingly, Ashtosh didn’t think he’d be a candidate for college at all.

“I wasn’t planning to go to college,” Ashtosh said. “I was going to graduate and get a job.”

Ashtosh is part of the grant-funded Massachusetts Early College Initiative from the Departments of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education that seeks to enroll high school students in early college by creating equitable access, academic pathways, student support, connections to career, and partnerships between high schools and colleges.

Avila said the very successful grant program has increased enrollment and addressed equity gaps within educational opportunities in local communities.

“The College Access Dual Enrollment program is beneficial to high school students in our service area because it provides them, their families and guidance counselors a one-stop department that can assess their needs and give shape and direction to their goals through a tailored academic experience full of wraparound services,” Avila said.

For Ashtosh, becoming a college student while still in high school has been life changing.

“It helped me change my mindset,” he said.

Ashtosh plans to attend Bristol in the fall of 2022 to earn his associate degree —about a semester ahead of his peers —and is considering transferring to Brown University for a bachelor’s degree.

“That’s the beauty of early college,” said Kerry Bulk, Durfee High School Guidance Department Head. “We’re going to help you get there. College can be for you, and we’re going to help you and support you. It’s an amazing opportunity for students.”

Learn more about Bristol’s College Access programs.