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A new program gives middle school students a preview of the opportunities provided in high school classes.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Kylee DuBois, 14, places a bag filled with eggs for an omelette into boiling water during the culinary arts class at Century.Students at R.A. Brown Middle School in Hillsboro are getting an education this month in several new areas, from manufacturing to game design. But the students aren't being taught by their usual teachers. A new after-school program has students receiving their lessons and lectures from students at Century High School.

"Inspire the Future" is a new after-school program at Century High School, for young students to try out elective classes before they enroll in high school.

Bussed from Brown to Century twice a week after school, the students can learn from other students only a year or two older than themselves, rather than from teachers.

The mentorship-like program is helping to instill confidence for middle-school students to assist in their transition to high school.

Twice a week for three-week sessions, students from Brown get the opportunity to take elective courses at Century High, which are taught primarily by the high school students.

The classes give students the chance to play expert, sharing their knowledge with younger kids, according to school officials. The goal, they said, is to help students transition from middle school to high school and ease some of the anxiety middle-school students face when moving up to the next level.

"Seventy percent of our freshman are on track to graduate, as a district," said Rian Petrick, Hillsboro's director of extracurricular services and community outreach. "We know (the transition from eighth to ninth grade) is critical, so what can we do to try and help them with their transition to high school?"

Century High School Principal Martha Guise said the classes are taught by stand-out students at Century with a passion for the subject matter.

"These are students who are leaders in their program, knowledgeable and demonstrate the ethic and understanding of the program to be good mentors to younger students, and have an enthusiasm for it," Guise said.

Freshman Maddie Brady was asked to assist in the culinary arts course and said the program has been a success with her young charges.

"I think it's been really good," she said. "(The kids have) learned a lot and they come back every week and tell us what they made at home."

Seventh-grader Owen Cyr has been taking the program's course on manufacturing. He said he and other middle-school students have gained a lot of confidence about joining the high school in a couple years.

"It's been great," he said. "Taking a project home every day is pretty fun. We get treated like full adults, like high schoolers. We get a lot of freedom."

The free program has received praise from students at both schools, said Brown's principal, Roger Will. The third and final set of courses for the year are expected to begin next week.

"It's been just a big hit," he said. "You have these ideas and you wonder, did you hit a home run, a single, did you foul out? This has been a home run."

Guise said the program has been beneficial for her student-teachers.

"Any time we can make students leaders, and make them feel like they are mentoring younger kids in some prosocial way, that gives them a connection to their school and a sense of pride," Guise said. "It's a great opportunity for our kids; this is just a win-win all around."STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Kristin Sine, 12, and Logan Kerner, 12, crack eggs into a bag during the class, where they learned how to make omlettes in a bag.

The program offers kids something they can't get with other after-school programs, Guise said.

"Not every kid wants to know about sports," Guise said. "This gets kids who maybe want to be engaged in another way and (get them) connected to schools, so that's a pretty great door to open."

The younger students are able to get hands-on experience with elective courses offered in high school, Will said, and get a lay of the seemingly large and intimidating land that is a high school building, while getting to know some students and teachers.

"When you go to high school, the whole world opens with opportunities," Will said.

Administrators focused on providing courses like manufacturing, health sciences and computer programming, said Hillsboro's Career and College Coordinator Brooke Nova. A major factor behind the program's creation is getting Hillsboro students ready to contribute to the fast-growing economy the area has seen in the past few years, she said.

"Those are all pathways that we know are high wage, high demand ... in Hillsboro and in our state," she said.

By preparing students for careers that are surging in the area, like the tech and health service industries, Nova said, students will be better prepared to enter the workforce later.

So far, the program has offered a course in health services, culinary arts and manufacturing. The program plans to offer a course in child care and game design in the coming week, administrators said.

Nova believes peer-to-peer support between high school and middle school students is what will make this program successful.

"If students can see themselves as a high-schooler, that's awesome," Nova said.

If successful, Petrick said he would like to see the program expand to other middle and high schools across the district.

"My job is to try to fill gaps and make more opportunities," Petrick said. "(Guise and Will) have really been exceptional in coming together to make this work."



By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
503-357-3181
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