Local high school students who want to jump-start their college educations can take advantage of a cooperative program by Merced College and the Merced Union High School District.
Nearly 100 juniors and seniors at Merced, Golden Valley, Atwater and Buhach Colony high schools are taking "Guidance 30" classes taught by Merced College through its contract education program.
The class is an entry-level requirement for obtaining an associate of arts degree and offers three units of college credit.
Students taking these classes have to be dedicated have a strong work ethic and study skills, said Darren Sylvia, the district's director of student support services. With the college class, students have a seven-period day.
This is the second year the program has been offered.
"Kids focused on going to college want to advance themselves quicker," Sylvia said. "I would like to see more of these classes."
"Guidance 30" focuses on life management, setting goals, making career decisions, college expectations and opportunities. It covers instructor-student relationships, cultural diversity, lifestyle choices that affect health maintenance, stress management, and campus resources.
Karen Dower, a Merced College dean who oversees contract education, economic and work force development matters, said high school students get college credit.
"We are excited about being able to partner with them," Dower said. "It gives them a huge kick-start on a college degree. We love that outreach. If they started in their junior year, they could earn 12 credits and be well on their way to completing a semester."
Sylvia is hoping history and psychology classes will be offered in the spring, but Dower said that hasn't been decided.
The district pays four Merced College instructors to teach the classes on high school campuses at 7 a.m. or after regular classes. High school students have to pay a $50 assessment testing fee.
Jennifer Souza teaches "Guidance 30" at Atwater High School. Her class meets Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7 a.m. She is an adjunct professor in guidance development as well as a part-time counselor at Merced College.
Souza said the course covers being successful in college, learning the skills to take notes and tests as well as how to manage their time and choose instructors. It also helps students who are trying to decide on a major.
"It prepares them ahead of time," Souza said. "It's all about learning the sacrifices entailed in college and accountability on their end. It feels like a college class."
Dower said juniors and seniors also learn that they can succeed in college.
Another advantage in bringing such courses to the high schools, she said, is that students may be able to get certain classes that often are hard to get into when they enroll at college out the way.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.