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Saturday, November 1, 2014

WTMC: A High School and College Combined

Lucilla Chalmer is a recent high school graduate who wants to be a neurosurgeon, so this fall she enrolled at the University of California-Berkeley to pursue a pre-med degree. The unique thing about Chalmer is that she earned 90 college credits as a high school student, giving her a head start on her freshman classmates.

Chalmer is one of 104 Washtenaw Technical Middle College 2010 graduates who have a head start on their future. She earned an associate of science degree and a health careers certificate as a WTMC student, and that’s not unusual. In fact, it’s required.

WTMC, a charter public high school sponsored by Washtenaw Community College, is one of the premier middle colleges in the country and the first of its kind in Michigan. It admits 120-150 sophomores and juniors each year, for a total of 350 students. Middle College students attend their sophomore classes on-site. Then they integrate among College students across campus for studies in a full range of career areas during their junior and senior years.

“To become a WTMC student, high school freshmen must have successfully completed one credit each of high school English, algebra/geometry, social studies, science, and an elective,” said Karl Covert, WTMC superintendent/dean. “Sophomores need two credits in English, math, science, and social studies as well as two elective credits.

“When students graduate, they not only leave with a high school diploma, they have also earned a WCC associate degree or certificate—sometimes both. In fact, they can’t graduate from WTMC without the latter.”

Eighty-six percent of the WTMC graduating class of 2010 earned associate degrees from WCC, with the remainder earning certificates. WTMC’s average ACT score of 22.6 is among the highest in Michigan, and far exceeds the national average. The school also has received a number of state and national honors:

  • In 2006 the International Center for Leadership in Education named it one of the top 25 high schools in the country.
  • In 2004 the U.S. Department of Education selected it as one of four schools in the nation that embraced a new educational vision for the 21st century.
  • In 2001 it received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Educational Practices.

“At WTMC we provide a public school education, which means there are no additional costs for tuition, books, and supplies,” said Covert. “This reality is a valuable asset for all members of our community. The state pays for the student’s high school education as well as two years of college work and experience.”

WTMC isn’t just open to students who are top performers. “If a student has passed their freshman requirements they can be admitted to WTMC,” said Covert. “One recent graduate was identified as a special education student. He had learning difficulties and told faculty he ‘hated’ school. His ultimate goal was to become an auto mechanic. Because of the nature of WTMC’s program, he graduated this year with an associate degree and a certificate in automotive studies.

“He told staff he appreciated his education at WTMC and was grateful to teachers for helping him recognize he was smarter than he thought he was. This student epitomizes the unique and highly progressive educational opportunity available to all Washtenaw County high school students. Simply, it is the ability to take classes that are relevant to each individual student while allowing them to simultaneously earn college credits.”

That’s what Brittany Periord, who’s a new student this fall, is counting on. “I want to get a better start on my future,” said Periord, who is interested in a career in medicine or maybe teaching English. She has time to figure it out—time that will pay her huge dividends on the campus of Washtenaw Community College.

WTMC will start accepting applications for the 2011-2012 school year in Feb. 2011.

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