With the start of the 2022-23 school year on Thursday, Aug. 11, Beaumont Unified School District opened its new Beaumont Middle College High School, which is designed to give students a college-like academic experience while they earn college credits in high school.
According to Beaumont Unified School District Director of College and Career Readiness Michael Breyer, who recently completed his doctorate in PK-12 educational leadership, creating a middle college was a project that the district had conceived several years ago and was quickly made a reality within the past year.
Progress really began to speed up when, in January, Beaumont Unified formalized a partnership with Mt. San Jacinto College (MSJC) for the use of professors and the college’s San Gorgonio Pass Campus in Banning.
“This conversation started about five years ago with Beaumont Unified and Mt. San Jacinto wanting to develop a school where students can concurrently take high school and college courses in an accelerated fashion to encourage either a transfer to a four-year university or an associate’s degree,” Breyer said. “We just didn’t know how to make it work. A year-and-a-half ago when we came back from the pandemic there was a renewed urgency.”
The availability of the small satellite campus and the positive relationship between Beaumont Unified and MSJC were the keys to making the middle college school possible. Mt. San Jacinto College was no longer utilizing the San Gorgonio Pass campus due to an increased use of distance learning during the pandemic.
“Mt. San Jacinto College is proud to continue its long history of collaboration with Beaumont Unified by working together on this innovative middle college program,” said MSJC Superintendent and President Roger Schultz. “The Middle College program will increase high school graduation rates, provide students with courses that will offer college credits, and serve students who are underrepresented.”
“We are thrilled to launch this incredibly exciting program in partnership with the Mt. San Jacinto Community College District,” said Beaumont USD Superintendent Mays Kakish when the agreement with MSJC was formalized in January. “Our ultimate goal is to see our students graduate high school equipped with one to two years of college credits. Some could even receive an associate degree at the same time they get their high school diploma. We cannot wait to see the impact this innovative program will have on our students, especially those who may have not considered themselves college material.”
Middle college experience
The school starts with 10th and 11th grades but will grow to include 12th graders and a capacity of 150 students. The aim is to have 50 students per grade.
In it’s first year the school has about 40 students enrolled.
The students were recruited from last year’s ninth and 10th graders with a special effort made to reach out to students who would be first generation college students.
The application process was open to all Beaumont Unified ninth and 10th graders and was itself designed to replicate the college admissions process, complete with interviews and notification through an admissions letter.
In the future the district hopes the school’s enrollment will benefit from interest sparked by personal testimonies as students begin to share their own experiences of the middle college.
“We’re excited to add a student voice to our recruitment next year,” Breyer said.
Later the school could be expanded in enrollment as virtual learning is growing in popularity.
The school is staffed with three Beaumont Unified teachers, three to four MSJC professors, academic counselors and other support staff.
Leading the team is Principal Benisha Carr, a doctorate in education and organizational leadership, who has worked with Beaumont Unified since 2019 and served as principal of Glen View High School and 21st Century Learning Institute.
“I’ve always been excited about giving students opportunities. I am a first generation college student, and I know how my parents struggled with tuition. I was blessed to get a scholarship, but if I could have had an opportunity like this in high school I can see how many doors it would have opened,” Carr said. “So, I’m very passionate about helping students get to their goals and the different pathways to get to those goals.”