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Program Brings High School Students to Campus

When you look around your classroom, you may be surprised by the amount of students who are as young as 15 years old. You may have thought you said goodbye to these underclassmen on graduation day, but now that Eastern has collaborated with two Madison County high schools, you may unknowingly see some of the students in a new program called middle college.  

Vickie Moberly, educational extension agent, said middle college is meant to bridge the gap from high school to college. She added that the program is for students who are tired of the traditional high school experience and willing to take an opportunity to make them feel like they are gaining more from their educational experience.

This year, the students enrolled in middle college are juniors who can give a two-year commitment.  Next year, the college will allow up to 60 juniors and 60 seniors to earn their high school degree on Eastern's campus.

The middle college staff is currently made up of two high school teachers, a secretary and the principal, John Fields. Courses are conducted in classrooms that are not in use at certain times in the day.

"It has been incredible how welcoming the entire campus has been to us," Fields said.

The school is a project-based society which encourages students to gain skills to keep them in college and allow them to graduate.  The students are not only taking college-level classes, but they are also completing their core content classes as well, Fields said.

"This is probably the kind of job that comes once in a career," said Stephanie Smith, English and history teacher for middle college.  

The students are put in an accelerated environment in order to learn how to hold themselves more accountable, Smith said.

"These classes are more rigorous with the intent to better prepare them for college-level expectations," Smith said.

This program has many perks for the students, such as free books, free tuition and a new MacBook to use for the next two years.

The students also have a class schedule that is not a typical 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. high school schedule. Instead, the students' schedules are very similar to that of normal full-time college students.  The difference is that the students only take one college class and the rest of their classes are high school level courses.  

Another perk is the students can earn at least 18 hours of college credit minimum between the two years.

Even though the students participate in classes, they cannot participate in all aspects of campus life or all aspects of a typical high school experience.

The students do not have access to sports except through Eastern's club and intramural sports.  They also will not have a prom, certain extracurricular activities that high schools offer, specialized elective courses and many more activities associated with a traditional high school experience.  

Students said these conditions do not bother them, though. Last names are not given because their peers are unaware what students participate in middle college.

 "This is so much better than being in high school," said Torrie, a student in middle college. "There are no cliques and everyone is getting along."

She said she thinks middle college is a much better opportunity for her.

"I like having the freedom and the responsibility to do what I am supposed to do when I am supposed to do it," said Amber another middle college student. "I'm not told what to do every step of the way."

The program gives students the opportunity to make their own decisions and succeed in their own way.

 "I'm treated just like a college student," said Kyle.

Because their peers do not know  they are not freshmen, they are not recognized as a high school student.  They are just like any other student hoping to do well in their classes, Moberly said.

New middle college students experience many of the same feelings incoming freshmen feel.

"I was overwhelmed at first, I wasn't ready for the sudden change, but I think the change will gradually ease out," Kyle said.

Thanks to two members of the original planning team, Vickie Moberly and Carol Gabbard, former director of GEAR UP grant and special projects facilitator for College of Education, the students are exceeding expectations, Moberly said.  

"When given the opportunity, they rise to the occasion," Moberly said.

Published on September 08, 2011

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