New direction for students

FLINT TWP. — The Genesee Intermediate School District is looking forward to another successful year for the new Early Middle College this fall.

Starting out with just a handful of students from across Genesee County in the 2017- 2018 school year, the program has swelled to some 72 students drawn from 11 high schools.

Jennifer Thomas, Career Technical Education Early College Coordinator, recently addressed the West Flint Business Association to talk about the program. She said participants in the program are working toward having an associate degree or career certification after spending five years in high school, instead of the traditional four.

Students enrolled in Early Middle College are finishing high school graduation requirements while working on college courses, said Thomas.

It’s a three-year high school program that students apply in the 10th grade and they begin in 11th grade. The students add a fifth year of high school, but when they finally graduate, they have both a diploma and an associate degree, credential or transferable credit. Do it 11,12 and a 13th year or 5th year of high school

“We have specific programs of study,” said Thompson. “As 10th graders we’re asking them to decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives – it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes they make a lot of changes, but it’s all about career exploration, helping them discover that pathway and see if it backs their passion.”

During their time in the program, students are dual enrolled in college classwork and high school curriculum. Their primary school of study is Mott Community College, but the Career Institute also has partnerships with Baker College and the University of Michigan-Flint.

Students can chose from one of many options for their field of study: accounting, automotive, autopsy assistant, business management, Computer Aided Drafting and Design, Computer Occupations Technology Applications Developer, Computer Occupations Technology Computer Security, culinary arts, dental assisting, health fitness professional, marketing management, nursing prerequisites, Occupation Therapy Assistant prerequisites, paramedics, physical therapist assistant prerequisites and welding technology.

“One of the programs I’m excited about for 2020 is the culinary essentials program, this comes on the heels of Mott Community College opening a new culinary art building in downtown Flint,” said Thompson. “Students will have access to all of that and the Genesee Career Institute just remodeled its culinary school and are opening their new restaurant. The students will have access to all those brand new and up-to-date modern culinary arts facilities.”

She said the CTE Institute will also offer a paramedics program starting next year.

“We tried to pick programs of study that were in high demand, high need and high wage for this area,” said Thompson. “We started by talking to local industries about what skills they need those students to have, what degrees and what certifications.”

She said the Institute started with 5 programs of study and there are now up to 17 different programs.

During their time in Early Middle College, students will come to the Genesee Career Institute or work from their high schools to follow a career in technical education course. They take their high school classes and also attend college classes.

The Career Institute has a partnership with 18 local school districts. Thompson said the other early college and Mott Middle College programs offered by the GISD are different than this program. In those programs students have to leave their high schools to take classes, but in this program they stay in their high schools.

“That’s where their friends are, they’re comfortable there with friends,” she said. “They can stay there and do their course work.”

Many students are concerned that by adding a fifth year of high school they will not be able to graduate with their friends or attend commencement exercises. While the students do have to remain in high school an extra year, the school district allow them to walk in commencement exercises with their classmates.

Part of the success of Early Middle College is getting the students to support services, she said.

“Starting college in high school is scary,” she said. “A lot of students going on to college, but not all are finishing their degrees. Graduation rates are below 50 percent for colleges in Michigan. We help with that transition – we help students learn college lingo and what do they need to know to be successful in college.”

Thomspon said the program basically wraps the students around the services available, even allowing them tutors and advisors to help get through tough college courses. Wrap them around the services.

“They get use to using those services on a college campus and still have the support of their local high school,” she said. “We have teachers available to help with college English and math, tests and papers.”

The program does some placement testing to try and find out what works best for students, she said.

“And we try to keep them involved in their local high school,” added Thompson. “We know the more involved they are at their high school campus, the more likely they are to graduate successfully.”

Thompson said the high schools offset the cost of tuition and books. There is a certain amount of money the state gives them using formula that allots funding per pupil. Most programs of study are of no cost to the students and parents.

“When we go around and talk to parents and we talk about free college,” said Thompson, “getting an associate’s degree for free – many parents ask why isn’t everyone doing this?”