By Steve Koehler
When fall classes begin at Ozarks Technical Community College, 32 high school students will take part on a new first-of-its-kind program designed to bring the best out of them.
Middle College, created to help with Springfield R-12 school district’s high-school dropout rate, targets underachieving students who have the potential to excel, will 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, Middle College coordinator at OTC.
“Sometimes, simply by taking them and dropping them into an adult-oriented college environment, students begin to take school more seriously and learning becomes relevant.”
The program is being conducted in partnership with the Springfield school district. It’s funded in part with grants from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, the Missouri Department of Economic Development, and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
While the Middle College is designed to assist students that are struggling in high school, this program is also designed to address the needs of students that are historically underserved or lack access to higher education .
The students, who had to apply and were selected through a series of assessments and interviews, will make OTC their home and participate one of two career pathways, either Early Childhood Development or Diesel/Automotive Technology. They will take classes to complete their high-school education along with earning free college credit. They will also work an internship at a selected business.
“The internship component makes us unique. After they earn their diploma, they can enter the workforce with some valuable skills or continue in higher education and stay with us or go on to get their four-year degree,” Bauer said.
OTC officials said the program is the first of its kind in Missouri.
Although there will be 32 in the first class, the 2009 class is expected to expand to 96 Springfield students. Two more areas of study being considered are medical services and manufacturing. Eventually, the program may be expanded to outlying school districts.
“We wanted to find a way to engage the disengaged student. Higher education is built around the college bound but we’ve forgotten about the non-college bound. There is a need for post-high school training that doesn’t necessarily mean getting a college degree,” said OTC President Dr. Hal Higdon.
“Being on campus all day gets them a job. It helps them earn some money. Going to work in a field of study is key and it gets them college credit.”
Dr. Norm Ridder, superintendent of Springfield school, said the program will serve a number of needs.
“A focus of student engagement early in their careers in diesel mechanics and child care serves both the child and the industry needs within the Springfield community. This is a direct connection between the classroom and the world of work, and for many of our children this connection is necessary for them to understand the importance of education in their careers,” he said.
For more information on the program, contact Dr. Bauer at (417) 447-6908 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Koehler is the coordinator of publications at OTC.
College Director of Communications
Coordinator of Publications
Phone: (417) 447-2666