WATERFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Waterford High School is one of the many schools across Connecticut offering Early College Experience courses in partnership with UConn.  

However, they are one of the few who offer the ECE Marine Science class.  

Michael O’Connor has been a science teacher with the school for 30 years. About 12 years ago, he piloted the ECE Marine Science course and it has been a success since.

“The course is equivalent to the Introductory Marine Oceanography course at UConn,” O’Connor said.

The only difference is the course at the high school lasts a full year and at the university, it’s one semester.

“We can cover the UConn curriculum in some pretty good depth and do some hands-on and lab activities,” O’Connor said. 

Junior Olivia Pennella is a student in the ECE class. She told News 8 she has always been interested in marine biology, especially horseshoe crabs.

“In fourth grade, I had one of his students come and teach me about them and ever since then I’ve been really fascinated with them,” Pennella said.

Now, it’s a full circle moment as she works alongside Mr. O’Connor, not only learning about something she’s passionate about but also getting college credits.  

O’Connor’s class is one of the many ECE courses the school provides. He told News 8 there are seniors who leave the school with almost a full year of credits.

Zachary Gamble is a senior and has taken a handful of ECE courses in his time at Waterford. He says he wants to challenge himself to be best prepared for college.

“Bottom line is even if you don’t have enough college credits to skip a semester, you’re still saving a lot of money,” Gamble said.