Most struggling high school students are not aware of alternative pathways for pursuing their education and often end up trying to survive high school as best they can. Senior Alicia Holland took advantage of Foothill College Middle College, one alternative, and is now thriving. “When I went to Middle College, I learned to love learning again,” Holland said. “I can be excited about school and think, ‘Wow, I’m really pumped for this class that I’m taking,’ even if I didn’t think it was a subject I’d be interested in.”
At Gunn, Holland was frustrated with the school system and asked her counselor about other options. “When I was at Gunn, I was not happy,” Holland said. “I didn’t fit the mold of a Gunn student.” She first considered independent learning and private school, but ultimately chose to attend Middle College.
“Middle College is a family,” Holland said. “You only have two high school teachers and not only are they heads of the program, your college counselors and your teachers, but they are also your second set of parents.”
Since college classes do not start until two weeks into the high school year, the Middle College students participate in team building and bonding activities for the first two weeks. Holland took part in a dodgeball game, scavenger hunt and beach trip with her classmates, activities which gave her a chance to meet new people. “Middle College students are so spoiled on waking up,” Holland said. “On the beach day, we had to show up at 8 a.m. and the day didn’t end until 2:30 p.m. We were all complaining, ‘This is such a long day! I can’t believe we have to stay at school this long.’”
The atmosphere at Middle College enhances community through discussion-based classes Holland laughs as she explains the “gnarly debates” her classmates get into in class. “The next day you’ll come back to class and see those two people that got into a fight hugging, because you can’t really hold grudges in Middle College as it’s so small,” Holland said. “Within a few months, you have this new community that I’ve never experienced before in the school system. It breaks down all those social barriers.”
Middle College comes with a lot of advantages. Attending Middle College might even prove beneficial to a student’s college application. “The college application process is no different. If anything, colleges really love to see students in the Middle College program,” Holland said. “It definitely adds a little sparkle to your application.” Students have already demonstrated success in a college environment, so colleges are reassured that the students will flourish at an actual college. Additionally, Middle College prepares students for college early on by providing the opportunity to get seven to 11 college credits a quarter. “You really finish your credits up early,” Holland said. “A lot of people finish up high school at junior year or go into college already having about a year of college credits under their belt.”
The system consists of a balance of college classes as well as daily Middle College English and history courses. According to Holland, there is more flexibility in choosing classes but classes are also more rigorous. “You wouldn’t sign up for Middle College if you can’t handle the two-hour lecture period in the college classes,” Holland said. “It’s definitely faster paced, but if you get a good teacher, you won’t even notice the speed.” Students have the freedom to learn what they want and try new things; Holland is even taking a body flexibility class this quarter along with an astronomy class although she has never liked science before.
Holland wants to banish the myths about Middle College and hopes that Gunn students will understand its benefits. “There’s a stupid rumor that only high school drop-outs go [to Middle College] and that’s not true at all,” Holland said. “There’s a huge variety of people, and that’s really special.” She is incredulous that Gunn students often portray Middle College as a place only for stoners, dropouts and slackers. Holland has met some of the smartest people she knows at Middle College and challenges the misconception that Middle College students are completely deprived from a high school experience. Students can still attend their high school events, get student discounts and participate in school sports and student government. “Just because you go to Middle College doesn’t make you any less of a Gunn student,” Holland explained.
Holland recommends Middle College to kids who are unhappy with the school system or bored because they find school too easy. Kids who had decided not to go to college and went through the Middle College program are now applying and excited for their next step. Holland herself became a happier and more social person. “It’s for anybody who is unhappy in the school system,” Holland said. “It’s for kids who just can’t do it anymore and need to be re-inspired to learn.”