Ruben Gonzalez and Lydia Brewster are both high school students enrolled in the Santa Fe South school system.
They are both sophomores and participate in the same sports. But there is one difference: Pathways Middle College.
Pathways is a branch of Santa Fe South Schools located on OCCC campus. It is a middle college, which allows high school students to earn a high school diploma while simultaneously working towards an associates degree.
Middle college students are known to surpass their peers, with 90% graduating high school, as opposed to the 78% nationally, 94% earn free college credit throughout their high school career and 30% earn an associate’s degree when they graduate.
Gonzalez attended Santa Fe South Middle School and when it was time for high school, said he had not planned on transferring over to Pathways when he was a freshman.
“I didn’t choose Pathways. My parents actually did,” he said.
He does not seem to have any regrets though and expressed how much he has grown to enjoy his school.
“I will say it has grown on me so much. I feel like it’s a no judge zone and we are like one big family. I would recommend any high schooler to come here!” he said.
Gonzalez did not just have high praise for Pathways either. OCCC has left an impact on him as well.
“My experience at OCCC has been amazing! Everyone is super nice and friendly. The professors are absolutely fantastic and I learn so much from them,” he said.
Pathways’ mission is “ensuring that all students graduate college, career and citizen-ready,” he said.
Part of that is learning how to navigate college effectively. For Gonzalez, that means deadlines.
“Being a student at PMC is preparing me for college because it instills a sense of deadlines. Obviously deadlines are a key component in college so getting used to that is good,” he said.
Pathways is similar to the concurrent program at OCCC but differs slightly as the middle college is full-time, whereas concurrent classes are not. Ruben sees this as one of the bigger differences.
“It differs from typical concurrent classes in the sense that we are in here with actual college students, in a college, almost living life as a full-time college student,” he said.
One other difference is uniform. Colleges do not typically require uniforms, but Pathways as a part of Santa Fe South does.
“The biggest thing I would say is that as a high school student we can’t wear what we want. We wear uniforms. That’s the biggest difference,” Gonzalez said.
As a student at Santa Fe South schools, uniform shirts are required.
That difference is one of the things that tie Santa Fe South students and Pathways students together.
Brewster, a sophomore at Santa Fe South, plans on enrolling concurrently at OCCC next year.
“I want to be able to get as many college classes as I can out of the way and get almost my associates, if not the whole thing,” Brewster said.
It is a normal thing for incoming freshmen at Santa Fe South High School to transfer or consider transferring to Pathways. Brewster decided to stay at the high school.
“One reason is that I know the community at the high school. Also, Pathways is pretty hard, so I just wanted time to enjoy high school before I started taking concurrent,” Brewster said.
Pathways is not completely separated from the other high school students. They participate in sports together and occasionally, other activities overlap. Gonzalez and Brewster run cross country together.
In the end, Pathways Middle College is about student success. The partnering of Santa Fe South Schools and OCCC is beginning to ensure that and Gonzalez is just one example. Striving for student success is something these facilities have in common and it will not be going away any time soon.