Whittier Union High School District has partnered with Rio Hondo College to offer students in its three alternative programs the opportunity to take a college-level course at their home campus.
Nearly 40 students from Frontier High School, a continuation school, Sierra Vista High School, an independent studies school, and Whittier Adult School are taking a 3-unit introductory sociology course that is transferable to a community college, four-year California State University or University of California institution.
It is the first time in eight years that a Rio Hondo College course has been offered at the Sierra Education Center campus, where the three schools are based.
“A lot of our students don’t see college as being attainable, but this introductory course gives them a taste of what they can expect if they pursue college,” Frontier High Principal Margie Moriarty said. “This class has excited many our students and tapped into a potential that they didn’t realize they had.”
Held Mondays and Wednesdays through May 25, the semester-long class provides students in grades 10 to 12 the opportunity to explore sociological concepts, from the development of human society and problems of inequality to basic social institutions and social movements.
“I don’t bring standards down for these students. They’re being treated like real college kids,” said Corina Diaz, who is teaching the class. “They are excited and are very responsive. I’m impressed with this bunch because they’re better critical thinkers than some of my own college students.”
Students receive 20 in-class assignments, are expected to attend each class and will write a reflection research paper investigating the challenges faced in their own neighborhoods.
“College can be intimidating for a lot of students and it becomes something that’s possible for them to tackle now that they’ve taken a class,” Diaz said.
The class is free to high school students; an Adult School articulation grant is covering the cost for those students. The schools are covering the cost of books and helped students take assessments and enroll.
Students who successfully pass the class earn college credit, helping to save on costs and time toward completing a certificate or degree. Due to the impressive enrollment and attendance rates, the District hopes to offer two Rio Hondo general education courses.
“What this course does is give our students an idea of what it is to have a college-level workload and what they need to do to prepare for college life,” Whittier Union Superintendent Martin Plourde said. “It gives our Frontier and Sierra Vista students the chance to connect to Rio Hondo before they even graduate and provides our Adult School students a path toward advanced learning opportunities.”