NEWMAN - A number of Orestimba High School students are getting a head start on their college studies via a new course offered on the local campus through UC Merced.
The 60 students enrolled in the series of four child development courses will, upon successful completion, have earned 12 units of UC credits during the current school year - as well as elective high school credits.
“This is the first time that we are offering UC programming,” said Principal Justin Pruett. “Every quarter they will get a new course in the sequence and earn three UC units. Besides the 12 credits, it will give them a certificate from the state if they do field work under a licensed supervisor. They will get a child care certificate and be able to work at a facility. That leads to employment opportunities, whether as a career or a part-time job while they are going to school.”
The school district is picking up the fee for the students to take the course, Pruett added.
Several students voiced their enthusiasm for the new course offering.
“I want to be a teacher. I think this is a good start,” said junior Anthony Casillas. “College credit was one of the main reasons (for taking the class). I didn’t have to pay for these units.”
Fellow junior Kyra Landeros aspires to a career as a labor and delivery nurse. The child development courses fit her career plans well, she explained, and the opportunity to earn college credits in high school was an important consideration as well.
“The credits are important. It is always good to have a head start,” Landeros said.
“Not a lot of high schools provide that opportunity,” said senior Perla Soto. “We are able to have that chance.
“I love learning, and I can get credits at the same time,” she added.
Student interest in the program was overwhelming, Pruett told Mattos Newspapers, with 200 applying.
He said UC Merced officials provided some input on that traits to look for in accepting students to the program.
“They said that we want students who are diligent about getting their work in and stay on top of every task, those who have a history of completing projects and meeting deadlines,” Pruett shared. “It doesn’t have to be straight ‘A’ students, but the ones who have that work ethic.”
Students, he emphasized, are doing university-level work.
“The rigor is at the UC level, what they expect students to do in their system,” Pruett said. “They are using UC Merced materials and tests.”
The UC Merced program also requires specific teacher qualifications, he noted.
Cherie White, who Pruett said holds a master’s degree in education, is teaching the program.
The four courses, she noted, include Early Child Development for Practitioners, followed by Child Development in Family, School and Community; Introduction to Curriculum, Birth through Primary; and Teaching and Learning, Birth through Primary.
“I thoroughly enjoy teaching Child Development and the involvement with the students,” said White, who also teaches mathematics at OHS. “Many parents have reported that students are going home and talking about what they are learning.”
The credits earned are transferable, Pruett noted, and are accepted by the CSU and junior college systems.
In addition to the UC Merced program, Pruett said, the school district is working with MJC to provide opportunities for Orestimba students to earn junior college credits on campus.
Earning college credits while in high school not only gives students a head start on their higher education and brings financial benefits, he added, but also helps promote a college-going culture.
“The kids have really bought in that this is a college class. It shows them that they can do UC level work,” Pruett concluded. “I don’t think that you can get much more college-ready than by completing a (college) course.”