If there were an award for the hardest-working high school student in Gary,

Brandon Thomas-Pleasant, 18, would be a prime candidate.

Thomas-Pleasant is a high school senior at the 21st Century Charter Schools in Gary and also attends Ivy Tech Community College Northwest and Indiana University Northwest.

Most students find high school alone challenging, but Thomas-Pleasant has higher goals. He knew he could save money and be further ahead once he entered college by taking some college classes while in high school.

He first learned about taking college courses through his high school instructors. They told him Ivy Tech and the charter school had an arrangement that allows students to take several Ivy Tech courses for free. Since Ivy Tech’s credits transfer to IUN, where he plans to attend in August, he took an eight-week freshman-level English course.

Thomas-Pleasant did so well in his first course that he decided to take another English class, this time online. It gave him the flexibility to do his work anywhere via computer. That was a big help because Thomas-Pleasant works part time after school at the Gary Public Library and has since he was a freshman.

While visiting IUN to find out about financial aid, he discovered he could take another free class through the Gear-up program. Along with his online course at Ivy Tech, he is taking a guided studies skill course that will help him when he enters IUN.

Thomas-Pleasant’s strategy paid off. He has earned nine free college credits and saved about $1,000 in tuition.

Thomas-Pleasant has received another benefit by attending both schools; he became a member of the Student African-American Brotherhood, which is on both campuses. The group seeks to increase the number of African-American and Latino men graduating from college by creating a positive peer community. Thomas-Pleasant was asked to join and is the youngest member of the group.

“Brandon is a great example of how higher education institutions can support high school students and prepare them even before they get to college,” said Darrell Riddell, Ivy Tech assistant professor and co-sponsor of SAAB. “Programs at Ivy Tech and through SAAB can help more African-American males graduate.”

Ivy Tech offers many options for high school students. They can earn college credit online, on campus or through dual-credit programs at their high schools.

For more information about how students can earn college credit, call Ken Rosenblum, assistant vice chancellor of Student Success and Advising, at 392-3600.

Karen L. Williams is executive director of marketing and communications at Ivy Tech Community College Northwest, 1440 E. 35th Ave., Gary. She can be reached at 981-4454 or by e-mail at kwilliam@ivytech.edu.