Members of Pioneer High School’s brand new Early College Academy began their two-year program this summer by taking the college course “Counseling 101: College and Life Success” with Victoria Cuevas, Director of Pioneer’s Expanded Horizons Department, and Jennette Noriega, a college counselor with Rio Hondo College.
Pioneer High School is the first school in the District to participate in Rio Hondo College’s Early College Academy, which provides students with the opportunity to take free college-level courses and earn college credit while still in high school.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to get a huge head start on college while challenging themselves academically throughout their high school career,” said Pioneer High School Principal Monica Oviedo
Through the new program, 29 Pioneer students will take one college-level course per semester at no cost and outside of their regular high school class load. Upon completing the program and graduating from high school, students will have18 college credits that they can apply toward a community college Associate of Arts degree or transfer to a four-year California State University or University of California school.
Pioneer students wishing to apply to the Early College Academy must have a 2.5 GPA or higher; a C or higher in algebra; a C+ or higher in English; and a good showing on their California Standards Tests (CSTs). They must also submit a letter of recommendation and a personal essay. Once the students are selected, their parents participate in a mandatory orientation.
“This program and its opportunities will light some of our students on fire,” says Pioneer High School counselor Yolanda Martinez. “This program isn’t just for Honors students. We want to find those students who are capable, highly motivated, and think they can handle it. They will have a lot of support and we are hoping to see a lot of students apply.”
At the beginning of their summer course, students placed their plans and dreams for the future on paper in colorful collages. The goal of the project was for the students to take time to think about who they are now and who they want to be in the future. The course is designed to help students with goal setting and teach them about the requirements, tools and resources they will need to be successful in college, Cuevas and Noriega said.
Nubia Gonzalez, 16, filled her collage with photos cut out from magazines depicting tennis, one of her favorite sports. She also wrote UC Santa Barbara in large letters. Gonzalez said she would like to attend the university and study medicine in order to become a pediatrician.
“I’m excited to have been chosen for the Early College Academy because it will give me an idea of what college will be like and I will also be able to earn college credits in high school,” Gonzalez said. “By completing these courses, I will be able to spend less time and money on college and that’s huge when you consider that I am facing about 11 years of school after I graduate from high school in order to become a doctor.”
“The Academy will give me a head start on my future,” said Raeann Campos, 16. “I will be prepared for college and my parents won’t have to pay for the courses that I can take here for free.”
Interested students who meet the criteria can consult their counselors in advance of the application process to find out more about the program and how they can apply. This year, there were more than 120 eligible sophomores invited to apply for the program and 29 were selected for the two-year academy, Martinez said.
The Early College Academy will take place after school at Pioneer High School. In addition to taking “Counseling 101: College and Life Success,” during the summer before their junior year, students will also take courses that will include the “Art of Mexico,” “Sociology 101,” and “Public Speaking 101.”
By the time students finish the Academy, they will have completed most of the core curriculum of an Associate of Arts degree. In addition, by taking the program’s “English Composition” and “Oral Communications” classes, students will have completed two of the “Golden Four” classes that are required for transferring into the CSU and UC systems.