By Samuel Gomez
Pulse Staff Reporter
Palo Alto College will make history this May when it rewards hard-working high school students with a head start on their academic futures.
In May 2018, the inaugural senior class of the Frank L. Madla Early College High School at Palo Alto College will receive both their distinguished high school diplomas and associate degrees.
“They call us the legacy group because we’re the first graduating class,” said Ileana Rodriguez, senior at Frank L. Madla. “I have thirty something days until I graduate.”
FLMECHS is part of the New Frontiers Public School District that enables high school students to take high school and college courses at the same time, allowing them to graduate with both a high school diploma and a college degree.
“It was awkward at first because you’re a sophomore taking college classes,” said Edward Davis, senior at Frank L. Madla. “Everybody is dumbfounded because they don’t think I’m in high school still.”
New Frontiers focuses on students who are at a high risk of not attending college. Students pay nothing to enroll in the program, and according to the district, families have saved over $300,000 collectively by participating.
“I’m saving a lot of money,” Davis said. “My four-year university that I’m going to, tuition’s not cheap. It’s going to be a lot less expensive than if I was to go four years and pay for all four years.”
The district’s website describes the curriculum as rigorous, lively and comprehensive. The data collected so far has shown that the approach has been successful. According to a 2015 performance report, students at FLMECHS have passed 100 percent of college courses taken. Even more, students in the program have performed above the state and regional averages in both English 1 and Biology.
“This is just a really different environment,” said Geraldyn Campos, a first-year student at Frank L. Madla. “I see more motivation and inspiration here than I’ve ever seen at the two schools that I’ve been to.”
Rodriguez said, “We have a lot of guidance here. I guess the negative part of that is a lot of hand-holding. But for the most part, we understand what it’s going to be like when we actually graduate.”
Even though the program has been described as stimulating, it’s not for everyone. According to Rodriguez, about 57 will be graduating from a class that started as 100. Rodriguez and Campos said the most common reasons for students to leave Frank L. Madla, is the school’s lack of sports and extracurricular clubs and activities.
In spite of that, the district plans to expand and create more opportunities for young students hoping to get an edge. According to a Palo Alto Public Relations story, Palo Alto is preparing to partner with Southwest ISD and H-E-B in August 2018 for the Center for Applied Science and Technology (CAST). This career-themed school will grant high school students the opportunity to earn industry certifications or associate degrees in advanced manufacturing, engineering, logistics, global enterprise and energy.
According to Jeffrey Flores, principal of Frank L. Madla, the goal is to give students the knowledge and tools to continue their education with confidence.
“They leave here with the idea that they know they can do it,” Flores said. “If they do it… that’s the hard part. But you get them prepared for it, so we’ll see.”