Fifth Year’s A Charm

Nicole Bobb, staff writer

“I think it’s like EFE, like KAMSC, it’s like IB, it’s an opportunity people have to take another option in their coursework to propel them towards their future coursework,” said Principal Jim French. Portage Northern is planning to participate in a program that would allow for willing students to graduate high school with their associate’s degree, as long as they are willing to get their diploma a year later.

This program, known as “Early/ Middle College” has already been implemented in Schoolcraft, and administrators are in the process of implementing it in the other eight school districts in Kalamazoo County. The program will not be in place for  in time for current Portage Northern students to participate, “Maybe incoming freshman next year- it might go back to the 8th grade just because you have to start incorporating  content and curriculum  in the 9th grade,” said French.

Students pursuing the program can expect to have a schedule that differs from students that do not participate in the program due to the different classes that they take as well as graduation requirements that have to be met, “There’s a college successes class that has to be taken and can be imbedded into another course that we offer, or it can be taken as a standalone course, which has to be taken sophomore year,” said French.

Students that participate in the program will be able to participate in graduation ceremonies with their class. However, students that participate in the 5th year will not get their official paper diploma until after they complete the full program. Students in the program technically remain a high school student for another year so that the school system is able to fund the training or education the student receives.

The program in Kalamazoo County is intended to be facilitated through a partnership between Kalamazoo Valley Community College and the participating school. Students that complete the program through KVCC would then transfer to Western in order to complete their degree. Getting an associate’s degree through KVCC before they transfer to another school is something that many Northern students plan to do. “It would be cool to have them pay for it. [After high school] I will be attending KVCC and just getting my Gen Eds done,” said Brooke Mellema (12).

The program intends to facilitate training for jobs that most need to be filled in our area. Currently the program offers associate degrees in:  the arts, graphic design, and machine-tool technology. The program also currently offers certification for: graphic design, machine-tool technology, welding, and personal computer technician work.

The program is not for everyone, “It’s a smart idea for people that aren’t going to big colleges,” said Lyric Muraoka (10). While some “just want to get out of the school,” said Raman Khehra (11), others might want to take advantage of the program. “We have a lot of opportunities [at Portage Northern]. Not all of them are going to fit every student, but we want to build something that will help us fill the needs of all of our students. It’s just about finding that right fit,” said French.