By Steve Koehler
Ozarks Technical Community College’s Middle College program is not only providing a venue for high school students to gain a foot up on their educational future but it’s also giving people a reason to smile.
Victor Stewart, a Middle College student studying Early Childhood Development, is smiling after winning a Missouri Breaking Traditions Award and scholarship in April.
“I wasn’t sure about the program at first but now, I love it. You learn a lot about college life,” he said.
Shelly Ramos and her son, Dylan, are smiling after he was accepted into the program for next fall and will be studying diesel/automotive technology.
“This program is right up his alley. It’s what he wants to do. He’s been focused in this field,” Dylan’s mom said.
OTC’s innovative Middle College program was started last fall to help with Springfield R-12 school district’s high-school dropout rate, target underachieving students who have the potential to excel and give the students an opportunity to prepare themselves for a post-graduation life.
“The program is designed for students who are behind in school or have life circumstances whereby the traditional high school is not as suitable. These are bright kids and through assessment have demonstrated a high potential to do college level work. We will provide them with a lot of resources on campus to give them a leg up, but we will also insist they step up their own expectations for learning,” said Dr. LaRaine Bauer, OTC’s Middle College coordinator.
While the Middle College is designed to assist students that are struggling in high school, this program also helps address the needs of students that are historically underserved or lack access to higher education.
This past year, the program offered two career pathways, Early Childhood Development or Diesel/Automotive Technology. This fall, a medical services program will be offered as a third choice.
“This expansion is consistent with the needs of our community since healthcare is the No. 1 employer in the Springfield metro area. Our students will focus on health-related courses in medical terminology, which will assist them in understanding the language of medicine and healthcare occupations,” Bauer said.
There are 48 students enrolled in the fall courses with 16 in each of the three programs.
Students take classes to complete their high-school education along with earning free college credit. They will also work an internship at a selected business.
Bauer said because the program is so innovative, other community colleges are beginning to call her office for information.
Stewart, 17, from Central High School, said he entered the Early Childhood program because of his love for kids.
“When I heard I could work with kids, I knew I wanted to be in the program,” he said.
Stewart won the state award for being a student in a nontraditional career or technical education program.
“I hope to have a career combining my work with children and music,” said Stewart, who won a two-year scholarship to OTC with the award.
Crystal Swisher, 16, served as a role model for her 15-year-old sister, Amber Powers, when it comes to Middle College.
Crystal is in the program and Amber will be join her in the fall.
“I saw how Crystal was improving in her grades. It’s more relaxed here. I think I’m ready to do it,” Amber said.
Bauer said two-thirds of the 28 students in the first year of the program improved their high-school grade point averages and 25 of the 28 students who completed their college courses earned all five college credit hours that were available.
A total of 21 students participated in various internships throughout Springfield with business partners such as, O’Reilly’s Automotive, Central State Core Supply, City Utilities Service Fleet Center, Broadway Headstart, Isabelle’s House and Joyland Daycare .
“I am really happy our students now have more choices and can take greater ownership of their learning experiences through the Middle College. We are the hook for some students to keep them in school and help them become more actively engaged in learning as well as ease the transition to college life,” Bauer said.
Steve Koehler is coordinator of publications at Ozarks Technical Community College
College Director of Communications
Coordinator of Publications
Phone: (417) 447-2666