Preparing for the College Journey

by Amanda Mace, School Leader, Mission Heights Preparatory High School

As a college prep school, the expectation at Mission Heights is for all our students to prepare for their “College Journeys,” as we call it. And if not college, then they must have a plan — be it in the military or in a trade. In fact, for the past three years, over 92 percent of our graduating seniors have attended university, community college or joined the military.

As Mission Heights’ vision is to help “every student succeed at the nation’s top institutions of higher learning,” we felt that we needed to use more of the local opportunities within our reach to help our students succeed.

Each year, as we narrow our vision, we have grown in this endeavor of preparing our students for the college journey. In 2017-2018, we removed AP English classes and instead brought English 101 and 102 onto our campus as free concurring enrollment for our students, making it the expectation for our students’ junior and senior language arts classes to be mostly taken as college courses. In 2018-2019, we welcomed Mr. Potter, a professor for Central Arizona College (CAC), and an even larger number of students are finding success in these courses. In fact, over 40 percent of Mission’s graduating seniors have already been enrolled in a college class before they graduate. Now, as we look ahead to the 2019-2020 school year, it is our new requirement that all students take at least one college class before graduation.

We are excited to announce that next year Mission Heights is expanding our partnership even more with CAC to provide additional opportunities for our students to experience the college environment and expectations before they walk out our doors for good.

Beginning in August, around 50 of our 11-12th grade students will be bused to the CAC campus for classes created specifically for Mission Heights students. The five programs we selected are elementary education, digital media, industrial construction, industrial technology and diesel mechanic. Students can begin taking these classes to work on earning up to 30 credits before graduation toward their degrees. This opportunity is priceless, and we are thrilled for how it will propel our students and school further toward our vision.

On top of that, we are continuing to provide other college and career-ready options for our students. We will continue to partner with CAVIT and have 50 11-12th graders enrolled in its trade programs. As well, we are creating an advisory class for students to work with one teacher all year on specific focuses for their grade levels to help give our students accountability, support and planning time.

During 9th grade, our students will focus on establishing strong transition skills, like organization and planning, as they start high school. In 10th grade, they will receive career help, such as how to apply for jobs and do interviews. Our 11th graders will receive vital help to prepare for college — how to apply, ACT/SAT studying, FAFSA assistance and more. Finally, our 12th graders will complete a Capstone project that will give them a graduation checklist including service hours to help our school and community.

We are beyond thrilled with where our vision for Mission Heights is taking us. As Malcolm X once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

It is our hope to prepare these students for their college journey, and, in that, to help them mainly prepare for their futures. All students have the freedom to grow, learn and be challenged; it is simply their choice whether or not they will grab hold of the opportunities in front of them. We are honored to partner beside the students in Pinal County and help every student who enters through our doors to prepare for their college journeys.