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Poway to Palomar takes high school students to college

The newest high school in the Poway Unified School District opened Monday on the Palomar College Rancho Bernardo campus.

The collaboration has created a new learning environment for high school students who will take classes in the same four-story building as older college students.

“We know they can get As and Bs, and they haven’t for whatever life reasons, and so we are bringing them here into a small setting where we can support them a little more,” said Patty Hurtt, director of Poway Unified’s Alternative Programs.

Forty three juniors from high schools across the Poway Unified District are enrolled in the new Poway to Palomar College. Many of them think and learn outside the box — so far outside the box, they will spend the next two years collaborating and creating much of their own experiences. They will be guided by a team of certificated teachers with support from the college, too.

Star Rivera-Lacey is the superintendent and president of Palomar College, which is based in San Marcos with other satellite campuses in Escondido, Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton.

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Courtesy of Palomar College
Students are welcomed to the new Poway to Palomar Middle College on the first day of school, Rancho Bernardo, Calif., August 15, 2022

She said that plans for the Middle College started in 2018 before the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing international health crisis slowed down the process.

Monday’s ribbon-cutting and grand opening is now the beginning of a process that will grow to include 80 additional Poway juniors, next year.

“This is their home, their academic educational home, and so when they graduate from high school it is a seamless transition for Palomar,” Rivera-Lacey said.

Along with the benefit of a new kind of education, students also made a sacrifice. There is no school gym or plans for a senior prom, for example. The class of 2024 will be the first to create traditions and establish what the new high school experience will be like.

Each student applied for the program for a variety of reasons.

“I’m excited because this allows me to take those college classes which transfer to college credits which will get me a degree a whole lot quicker than other people,” said David Flood, 15.

M.G. Perez
Joyce Orishaba, 17, Myla Asiedu, 16, and Emily Harnett, 16, are juniors from different Poway Unified High Schools who are now attending the new Poway to Palomar Middle College. Rancho Bernardo, Calif., August 15, 2022.

Joyce Orishaba, 17, said she is not sure what to expect going to school with college students.

“They are like way older, and we’re just like babies doing high school stuff," Orishaba said. "But, it’s interesting to meet people of different ages and to have people who are your age as well,” she said.

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