Middle College — a program designed for students to earn high school and college credits — is the kind of nontraditional education that works for some students.
The dual-credit career pathway format combines the classes necessary for high school graduation with three semesters of technical college coursework in one of three areas, health care, manufacturing or culinary arts.
Students take classes at their high school in the morning and then travel for their technical college courses. Students earn up to 30 free college credits and some apply toward high school requirements.
“I joined the program because high school was going a little slow,” said Jacob Wittrock, 17, a senior at Memorial High School, who is taking the manufacturing path. “I was told it was going to be a little more fast-paced and hands-on.”
The program is designed to attract students who are disengaged with the traditional school model.
Students who were taking a welding class at Madison Area Technical College said they wanted to get into the program because it offered an alternative and presented new opportunities such as attending college and following their interests.
“It was something different to do instead of sitting in school all day,” said Jewls Martin, 18, a senior at Prairie Phoenix Academy. “I learned more about myself as far as school, what I might need to get better at.”
The program is a collaboration between the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin, Madison Area Technical College, Opportunities, Inc., Employment and Training Association and participating school districts in south central Wisconsin.
For other school districts, the partnership is with Moraine Park Technical College. There is no cost for students because the program is funded by the Workforce Investment Act.
“It’s designed for students who normally would not consider attending college or for students who didn’t think college was an option for them,” said Tia Rice, director of programs for the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin.
Annually, each Middle College pathway accepts 12 to 15 students who must meet certain requirements such as income eligibility to get into the program. The students start the program in the second semester of their junior year and take part in a paid work experience the first summer and then again at the end of the program.
Once completed, some students decide to continue their education while others start working or pursue other options such as joining the military.
“There’s enough support in place so they can transition well (to college),” said Lisa Hollman, Middle College senior adviser and high school liaison for MATC.
Cortez McNair, 18, a senior at La Follette High School who will graduate from the program Wednesday, hopes to eventually study engineering at UW-Madison.
“Middle College is just the beginning,” Rice said. “It’s not the end.”