Middle College: An alternative to high school education

Ray Chang / Aragon Outlook

Located at the College of San Mateo, the Middle College program is an alternative education program provided by an agreement between CSM and the San Mateo Union High School District that allows junior and senior high school students to concurrently enroll in high school and community college courses. This program gives juniors and seniors the opportunity to finish their high school graduation credits, obtain college credit, and also have a college oriented experience as a high school student.

Those enrolled in this program take three or four high school required classes and choose the rest of their classes from the CSM campus catalogue to fill their schedule. Most classes are taken on the CSM campus.

The Middle College program application is simple.

“[Aragon refers] kids, and they have to be interviewed, and they have to be appropriate, which means for some reason they’re looking to move on from Aragon: they want to start their college careers, or they just want to be in a different learning environment,” said Aragon Counselor Steve Allekotte, “They’ll come to us, we’ll give them a packet, they have to apply and have an interview with their parents.”

Many students that attended Middle College, such as alumna Maria Patino, state that they were satisfied with their experience due to the format and flexible scheduling of the program.

“My middle college experience was fun; I really enjoyed it,” said Patino. “When I transferred to Middle College, I was able to succeed more in my high school classes and college classes.”

Junior Heidi Gim agrees: “At Aragon, I was pressured by everything around me to take classes I didn’t want to take,” said Gim, “[I feel like I] have to be stuck to concrete schedule, and [that] overall, my hand was being held and I wasn’t really free to do things as I pleased. [At Middle College], I’m able to take classes as I please and have the freedom to pick which classes I want and what time I’m going to take them.”

Middle College students still keep their ties to Aragon, however.

“Once we refer them, they’re still our kids, so we still have to look after their grade and etc, make sure they’re on target for graduation, so we keep in contact in that way,” Allekotte said, “The good thing is they’re still able to participate in sports and music … [at Aragon] if they can fit into their schedules extracurriculars.”

Gim has managed to fit extracurriculars at Aragon in her schedule, practicing with the Wind Ensemble twice a week.

“More often than not the timetable doesn’t always work out, but there are ways around it … [I] can still go to things like GATE field trips and am able to participate at clubs at Aragon. I am still technically a student Aragon — I am simply not taking any classes at Aragon.”

Middle College does lack many of the extracurricular opportunities that Aragon offers, but the program has other benefits. One of its most prominent activities is Community Day.

“You and a couple of your classmates would plan an event,” Middle College alumna Glynnis McNamara said, “During a normal school day, normally Friday, like the end of the semester, you would plan a fun party or a get together for you and the other Middle College students. My friends and I planned an end-of-the-year barbecue for graduation. We went to the park and played softball and it was really cool and fun.”

In addition, the flexible schedule allows students have more extracurriculars outside of school.

“I was in SFJazz my senior year,” McNamara said. “Rehearsals are at five, so I would plan my classes earlier that day, get out at 2 p.m. that day, hang out, go home, practice, do homework until I had to leave on the train at 4:30 p.m. and go up to the city. I felt much more relaxed, and it’s much more like a college schedule … Ultimately, I would say that Middle College would be a really great option for people who have extracurriculars outside of Aragon that have later hours or weirder hours.”

Posted by Albert Hao

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