News & Notes: Sierra High Schools College Fast Track program is winner |

News & Notes: Sierra High Schools College Fast Track program is winner

Sierra High Schools College Fast Track program recently won a prestigious award, but for principal Jane Loomis the real reward is exhibited best in graduate Belen Rojas.Honored by the California Continuing Education Association as an exemplary program, the College Fast Track option was instituted two years ago to provide students with opportunities previously not available in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. The Sierra College Tahoe-Truckee Campus-based program allows students to explore diverse career options, take advanced placement courses and earn college credit toward an associate degree. Additionally, the program offers students an opportunity to graduate early from high school or recover lost credits toward graduation.College Fast Track was the most direct route to Belen Rojas dream of becoming the first person in her family to earn a high school diploma and to attend college. Rojas plans to continue at Sierra Colleges Tahoe-Truckee Campus and earn an associate degree in criminal justice. Ultimately, shed like to become a police officer or probation officer.I have three older brothers and Im the only one who has graduated from high school, says Rojas, 18, who currently works as an administrative assistant at the Truckee Family Resource Center. When I told my family I wanted to go into law enforcement they were thrilledthey couldnt believe I chose that, they thought Id go into nursing or something like that.According to Loomis, Rojas achievement is a great example of how a public school district/community college partnership can help students who may fall between the academic cracks. This program has made it possible for students who would not normally think about attending college at all realize that higher education is attainable and necessary, Loomis says. This is especially (true) for our Hispanic students most of whom are the first in their family to finish high school, let alone attend college.Loomis warns that a strong commitment is necessary for success in this program. A three-way contract delineates student, parent and school responsibilities, she says. This spring, 2009, 16 students have enrolled into one or more classes and we anticipate about a 50 percent success rate.Loomis says the districts high school students are guaranteed full access to the free tuition offered through the community college Academic Enrichment Program. Additionally, textbooks, school supplies and a Fast Track support teacher are funded from Measure A and a local parcel tax. Students take their classes at Sierra College, but are required to earn a C or better in the course and must meet weekly with Sierra High Schools Fast Track teacher to monitor progress.Belen Rojas offers a final bit of graduate wisdom.Students need to be willing to complete the courses, she advises. A lot of students take the courses but dont complete them.For more information about the College Fast Track option, contact a high school counselor or call Sierra High School at 582-2640.

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