First HTHI"ˆgraduates
by Sebastian Ruiz
Published - 06/21/07 - 09:57 AM | 2087 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Summer is a time of firsts for many young people stepping from high school life into their first jobs, first college classes or possibly the first time without homework.

As they prepare for challenges ahead, the students of the Gary and Jeri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High School and sister school High Tech High International will celebrate yet another first.

The first graduating class of High Tech High International will walk off the graduation stage and onto the world stage Friday, June 22, at 2 p.m. at the grass promenade on the south side of High Tech High, 2861 Womble Road.

All 78 High Tech High International students have been accepted into institutions of higher education, though a few have opted to take a year off to travel or enlist in the armed services before embarking on their next educational endeavor, according to Cesar Guerrero, director of college advising for High Tech High International.

The vast majority of the college-bound graduates have been accepted into four-year universities, including University of California, Irvine, Davis and Berkeley. Many will attend SDSU in the fall, he said.

"We are very proud of them, given that this is our first class," Guerrero said.

High Tech High International will utilize the same stage for its 2007 High Tech High graduation, sending off 97 students the same day. About 29 of these will be the first in their families to go to college, according to Chris White, director of college advising for High Tech High. The fifth class of High Tech High students will turn their tassels Friday, June 22, at 11 a.m. at the same location.

The graduating class of High Tech High has earned more than $120,000 in academic and merit scholarships, White said. Two students, Christopher James Mason and Aja Butler were both awarded the 2007 MTS and Coca-Cola Scholarship, according to the MTS Web site list of recipients. Each received $1,000 and a laptop, White said. Both are the first in their families to attend college, he said.

This year also sees a large number of the students accepted to local universities. SDSU will take about 15 High Tech High graduates, with seven others matriculating into UCSD in the fall.

While some will stay close to home, one student will branch off to attend Colby College, a four-year university in Waterville, Maine. It's the farthest a High Tech High student will travel to attend college, White said.

Other universities include Reed College in Portland, Ore., American University in Washington D.C., to study international relations on a strong academic scholarship, and Brandeis University in Massachusetts, White said.

This year, High Tech High will also graduate a student-athlete who has been accepted into Holy Names University in Oakland. The student has chosen to major in business while playing in the NCAA Division 2, White said.

"He knows he's a student first, then an athlete," White said.

With innovative project-based learning, High Tech High attempts to instill a well-honed work ethic with emphasis on quality. The rigorous academic curricula combined with the level of freedom enjoyed by the students as they choose, create and learn from their projects ingrains the discipline needed for success in college life, White said. However, when students show they have what it takes for college-level material, High Tech High brings the college to them.

White said High Tech High has programs aimed at making the first transition to college easier on the students. The innovative charter school has a relationship with University of San Diego where 16 students can attend classes at the university and earn college credit during the fall and spring semesters in an effort to "bridge the gap" between students and their next academic endeavor, he said.

A new program for incoming 2008 seniors will bring instructors from San Diego City College to teach math to current juniors who have been tested and qualify for college-level mathematics, White said.

He said the programs are part of the school's dedication to providing equal access to college for students who have the academic ability.

The school encourages the philosophy of providing a level playing field through programs that provide access to college regardless of academic or financial background. The atmosphere nourishes students' creativity needed to complete their project-assignments with emphasis on producing a quality body of work, White said.

For this reason, High Tech High has no valedictorian and no formal "outstanding recognition" ceremony, he said. The lack of awards and recognition emphasizes the cooperative nature of the curriculum rather than the competitive side of some scholastic competition, White said.

Founded in 2000, the High Tech village of schools includes High Tech High, High Tech High International, High Tech High Media Arts, High Tech High Middle School, High Tech Middle School Media Arts and Explorer Elementary.

The schools were founded as a way to provide innovative education and as a way to combat "student disengagement" and low achievement in San Diego public schools.

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