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Early College program puts Piner students on fast track

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Paul Kaufman will graduate from Santa Rosa Junior College at the end of the semester and transfer to UCLA in the fall. This all may seem normal to a JC student, but Kaufman did this all within just one year at SRJC.

Kaufman was able to do this as part of the Early College Magnet Program at Piner High School. He graduated from Piner in 2010 with 27 transferable college units. He was part of the first class to graduate from the program. “I succeeded in what the magnet program set out to do,” he said.

Kaufman is one of many who graduated the program in 2010. The Early College Magnet Program started in 2006 with the purpose of allowing students to take college courses through SRJC, to earn college credits and potentially have a year worth of credits by the time they graduate.  This program is prestigious and Piner takes applicants from incoming freshmen to participate.

Freshman and sophomore students in the program take specific, mandatory classes through Piner and SRJC to assure that the high school students are prepared to take college-level classes. In their junior and senior years, students are allowed to take college courses at SRJC.

The students are allowed to either take first and second period or fifth and sixth periods off from high school to take JC classes. “It was nice not to have morning classes in high school,” said Casey Castalidi, a 2010 graduate. “It allowed me not only to take morning classes at the JC but it allowed me to sleep in as well on Fridays when their weren’t any JC class for that day.”

One perk about being in the magnet program was that it paid all expenses, including tuition and books, except for the health fee. A yellow bus picked up Piner students and dropped them off at SRJC. “Even though I had to return the books at the end of the semester, it was nice to get my $200 Spanish book paid for,” said senior Jenny Chum.

Counselor Rachel Hagan has always been a big part of the program from organizing meetings to talking at events to counseling her students. “My favorite part of the magnet program was having Rachel Hagan as a counselor. She truly made my high school and college experience a much smoother process,” Kaufman said.

Hagan counsels at both Piner High and SRJC, which made it easier for her to accommodate her magnet students on both campuses and help them choose classes to achieve their goals. Students were always welcomed in her office whether it was school related or not.

“I’m so blessed to be part of this program,” Hagan said. “This program allowed me to build my career as a counselor and to help these young prospective students, and I have gotten a lot closer to many of them. They seem like my own kids at time.”

The Early College Magnet Program has been such a success that students from other districts transfer to Piner to participate. In the past, the magnet program usually did not meet its 100-student cap, but the 2011-2012 year has a wait list.

Expectations are high for each student to be in the program. The program requires each student to pursue post secondary education, spend about two hours on homework each day, attend all required classes, maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA at Piner and the SRJC, complete all high school graduation requirements and participate in program-hosted activities.

This year the Early College Magnet Program won the 2011 Jack London Award for Educational Innovation from Sonoma State University.

Last year, the class of 2010 graduated about 80 Early College Magnet Students and more than 50 percent of those students continued at SRJC. Of those, about 20 of them are graduating like Kaufman at the end of the semester with only one year at SRJC.

“I was a high school kid who learned how to be a college student while having 27 units before I even received my diploma,” Kaufman said. “Talk about awesome. I wouldn’t give back any of those four years in the program.”

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The news site of Santa Rosa Junior College.
Early College program puts Piner students on fast track