Students flourish in Middle College environment

October 12, 2017 — by Connie Liang and Elaine Sun

Middle college program offers students freedom and increased variety of classes.

As junior Alyssa Whitman sprinted on to Gunn High School’s pool deck, hair flying behind her, she furtively glanced at the poolside clock and muttered under her breath.

She was late to her away water polo game because her Middle College professor at West Valley College held the class in for a little longer than usual.

Middle College is a program offered by community colleges that allows students to attend college courses and learn in a more independent environment. According to Registrar Robert Wise, nine SHS students currently attend Middle College: four seniors and five juniors.

Whitman is making the choice to attend Middle College because of the flexibility of its schedule, ability to gain college credits and unique learning environment.

Whitman is also on the varsity water polo team, a commitment that often clashes with her classes.

“I have to make pretty tough decisions on whether or not to make it to time on games or skipping portions of class, and you’re considered a college student and it’s pretty bad when you skip a class,” she said.

At West Valley, students are exposed to more freedom, but it is up to them to make the right decisions, Whitman said.

Increased freedom also means increased opportunities, some of which appear in the form of course selection. West Valley offers multiple classes for each subject, such as several varieties of Chemistry, while the high school only offers three Chemistry courses that vary only in difficulty — regular, honors and AP.

Taking advantage of the multitude of classes available to her, Whitman currently takes an Introduction to Environmental and Architecture Design class, which suits her current ambitions for the future.

“There’s different things that SHS offers, but when you go to Middle College, you have more opportunities to do something that you want to do in the future,” Whitman said. “Now, I have a choice of figuring out what I want to do before I go to college.”

As for the social aspect, Whitman said she does feel somewhat as if she is missing out on the traditional high school experience, but she makes sure to stay in touch with her friends.

“I still participate and show up to the football games,” she said. “Of course I want to be here, I still talk to my friends and it doesn’t really make that much of a difference.”

Another Middle College student, junior Kristin Murakami, is still on girls’ golf team. Like Whitman, Murakami has occasionally found it difficult to balance her course load with golf. Some of Murakami’s classes conflict with her golf practice and matches, and unlike in high school, she isn’t allowed to leave class at West Valley early, so she has to either be subbed out or arrive late.

When it comes to academics, she has also had to make some adjustments.

“I had to get used to having people of different ages in my class,” Murakami said. “But so far I enjoy being in Middle College more because I get to have more control over my schedule and which classes I want to take.”

Senior Julie Weber, who started attending the program as a junior, said it allows students to customize their schedules more so than high school. For example, her earliest class starts at 9:20 a.m., and she was able to take an evening class last year.

Weber also enjoys that she can get a head start on college.

With all the college units that I have earned from being part of the program, I can now hypothetically earn a bachelor's degree in three years after high school without feeling rushed,” Weber said.

Weber also senses more connections among her classmates The Middle College program is very tight-knit, so she knows every one of her classmates there.

“In Saratoga High, you’re in a bit of a bubble where the most important thing in life are grades and extracurriculars,” Weber said. “At West Valley, you’re in real life.”