By Anna Jauhola
Each year, students across the state take college courses within their high school classes to help prepare them for post-graduation.
Kittson Central has offered these classes for years and has a good response from the juniors and seniors who can take them. Kim Jones teaches four math classes, two chemistry classes and two physics classes. Tina Turn teaches American literature, college composition, creative writing and British literature.
“One of the things I feel you can ask of these students, and expect, is a little rigor,” Jones said. “We try to match our curriculum to what they’re doing at UMC.”
To become a College in the High School instructor, both Jones and Turn complete continuing education each year, which ensures the district is accredited to offer the program.
“That’s the key word,” Turn said. “Rigor. And the kids who sign up want to be in these classes. It’s a privilege to be able to qualify and to be in a class. This is an opportunity. They usually rise to the occasion.”
In recent years, the number of students taking College in the High School courses has drastically declined due to the loss of enrollment. At one point, Jones had 20 students in chemistry and 12 to 15 in physics. Now, there may be half a dozen because class sizes are between 11 and 20. However, that has not diminished the interest in the program.
“For me, the most rewarding part of this is the emails or messages I get in the fall,” Turn said. “They usually send me a quick note saying, ‘Thank you so much. I’m the only one in my class who knows how to do’ whatever. Whether it’s how to write something or cite something correctly. And so to know they’re finding it’s applicable directly to college … feels exciting.”
Jones said she and Turn also reach out to their former students to discover what they can improve to make College in the High School better. They both said the feedback is important because the way colleges and professors operate is ever-changing.
Dani Perez graduated from Kittson Central in 2017 after taking two years of college courses through the program. While she went on to attend Harvard University and her credits didn’t transfer, Perez said she was still happy to have had the opportunity to take College in the High School classes.
“I feel like I learned a lot from those classes,” Perez said. “The kind of discipline of those classes and learning what it’s like to struggle in that class was really a big lesson for me before getting to college. I’m thankful that struggle was with the support of my classmates and teachers.”
She said taking the courses also helped her learn it was OK to mess up or not get perfect test scores.
“I feel that’s an indicator you’re learning or that you have something you need to learn in a way that is maybe a little more thorough, but different than what you’re used to,” Perez said.
She remembers Jones setting high expectations for her students, so that even in moments they struggled they could still see their goals were attainable.
“Going into college, in an extremely rigorous environment, it was good to have that precedent of I have struggled before and I have had a really tough time learning before, but it didn’t keep me from succeeding,” Perez said. “Just having that class where you learn a certain kind of resilience was so helpful to prepare me for college.”
Finn Blomquist Eggerling is a 2020 Kittson Central graduate who also took College in the High School courses and said it prepared him for college and the real world.
“It helped me develop a work ethic I think I’ve really used at Brown University,” Blomquist Eggerling said. “Just being adaptable and ready to work with a teacher on an assignment, even if it’s not something I’m passionate about, but it’s something that’s a conversation between me and the teacher. That’s something I’ve had at college and that got started in College in the High School classes.”
In general, his college composition classes with Turn particularly helped him hone his writing skills, which have also improved his communication skills in general. He agrees with Turn’s assessment that communication is key to life in general, whether you attend college or go straight into the workforce.
“If you’re chaotic and confused, what you’re saying is probably going to be chaotic and confused,” he said. “It’s really important you work on that. I think I have become a more effective communicator. That was the most effective non-college way I’ve learned from that college comp.”
While College in the High School is an important program to offer, especially in such a small district, Jones and Turn both emphasize it is not for everybody.
“Not everybody is going to go to college,” Turn said.
“And they shouldn’t,” Jones said.
However, Turn said students who can handle the rigor of these classes – even if they aren’t planning on attending college or tech school – should consider taking them anyway.
“For my classes, where it’s learning to be the best communicator you can be, no matter what your future job is, those are going to be skills that are needed and desirable,” Turn said. “So if we can elevate that bar and get some of our students there, I think that provides them more opportunities down the road.”
Jones added that all employers are looking for educated people for business, trades or whatever they choose.
For those who do go on to attend college, Jones and Turn often suggest they take some of their College in the High School classes again, even if they got good grades the first time.
“You’re just going to shoot right out of there,” Jones said. “If it fits in your schedule, it doesn’t hurt to do it, especially if it’s your major.”
“That’s just a huge boost of confidence, too, to feel like you have the background,” Turn added.
Blomquist Eggerling hopes students throughout Kittson Central will at least consider taking College in the High School classes, even if they don’t plan to take post-secondary education.
“I honestly do think College in the High School is the biggest way I was prepared to go out and to Brown and just into the real world,” he said. “Just keep an open mind. While they’re hard and they may be daunting and challenging at face value, it’s definitely a conversation between you and the teacher. And if you’re willing to put in the work on some level, you’re going to get something out of it.”
By Anna Jauhola