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Jefferson High School builds on Middle College Partnership with PCC

Story by Abe Proctor. Photo by Vern Uyetake.

From left to right: Middle College student mentor Tania Arreguin, Middle College Coordinator Damon Hickok, former Middle College participant Meitta Dennis.

The Middle College partnership between Portland Community College and Portland Public Schools – which enables students from Jefferson High School to take college credit classes at PCC’s nearby Cascade Campus – is poised to expand college credit opportunities to every Jefferson student.

In fall 2011, Jefferson High School will transform into Jefferson High School-Middle College for Advanced Studies. Students will experience a vibrant, multi-cultural and academically rigorous high school with performing arts, athletics, activities and the opportunity to earn up to 45 college credits at PCC by the time they get their Jefferson diploma.

“Middle College showed me that college is something I really can do,” said Meitta Dennis. “Not only did I graduate from high school, I earned college credit. Now I’m a student in PCC’s Emergency Medical Technician program with plans of earning a four-year degree and eventually becoming a doctor.”

To help students and parents learn about what Jefferson will offer, a series of information nights is taking place each Wednesday evening throughout the month of January and into early February (Wednesdays, Jan. 26, Feb. 2 and Feb. 16) in the JHS Library, 5210 N. Kerby Ave. in Portland. Each meeting runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and features program information from PCC and PPS staff, as well as testimony from past and current Middle College students. Students who live in the Jefferson attendance area will have first priority to attend Jefferson. Students outside the attendance area can also apply to attend the school.

“Participating in the Middle College not only mentally set me up to take college classes, but I earned 24 credits and started college as a sophomore – which is important because it cuts down on the cost,” said Michael Nelson, a 2010 Jefferson graduate. “Students who don’t see themselves as going to college realize the possibilities through the Middle College program.”

Freshmen and sophomores will focus on their core subjects at Jefferson. As students are ready, they will move to college prep classes at Jefferson and college courses at PCC Cascade, mostly in their junior and senior years. Students will earn a high school diploma from Jefferson as well as 12 to 45 transferable college credits. There is no cost to students – the program covers the cost of PCC tuition, fees and books. Counselors and advisors at Jefferson and PCC will closely support students as they progress.

“For years we’ve been talking about bridging the worlds of K-12 and higher education so we can create a smooth continuum from early education through to adulthood,” said Cascade Campus President Algie Gatewood. “By removing the barriers to college access for Jefferson students, the Middle College is helping to make this dream a reality.”

The transformation at Jefferson builds on the success of the existing PCC Middle College partnership, which has been in place and funded by Portland Public Schools since 2007. Middle College programs across the country have proven to be effective models for increasing high school graduation rates and enrollment in college.

To learn more about the Middle College information nights, call the JHS Office, (503) 916-5180.

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