With the phrase “Partnering for Student Success” projected behind him, Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill Tuesday that will extend the capabilities of the Innovation Campus program to allow Joplin High School students to obtain an associate degree while working to earn their high-school diploma.

The program is made possible by a partnership between Missouri Southern, Crowder College, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and Joplin Schools.

Representatives from Missouri Southern, Joplin Schools and Crowder College joined Gov. Jay Nixon for Tuesday's signing ceremony.

Representatives from Missouri Southern, Joplin Schools and Crowder College joined Gov. Jay Nixon for Tuesday’s signing ceremony.

Although the Innovation Campus initiative was launched in 2012, the plan to incorporate it for Joplin students took time and effort to set into motion.

“It takes different people at different levels to push things through and make things happen,” said Dr. Alan Marble, interim president of Missouri Southern.

Through assistance from Missouri Southern and Crowder, students at the high school and Franklin Technology Center will be able to take advantage of 40 dual-credit starting in the 2014-15 school year. Courses will be offered in the five Career Paths: Human Services, Business and Information Technology, Arts and Communication, Health Services and Technical Sciences.

By electing to take these dual-credit courses, students will earn college credit hours while still in high school. The program not only encourages higher graduation rates, but also showcases Joplin Schools as an advanced, competitive district.

“(Joplin has) one of the most premier districts in the country,” said Marble.

All of the featured speakers during the signing focused on one key factor to the entire program: the most important part is what the school is able to offer to students.

Chloe Bellamy, a junior at JHS and a member of the Innovation Campus program, urged students to “take the chance in high school rather than having to pay for the credits in college.” She said the program gives them the opportunity to explore the college experience while still in the familiar high-school setting.

Nixon said that through this program, as well as efforts to keep quality education affordable across Missouri, students will be able to get on a seamless path to college and their future career.

“The best economic developmental tool that exists is education,” he said.