The new partnership with Poway Unified is on track to launch this fall, giving high school students an early experience of college, and a vision for their own higher education.

RANCHO BERNARDO — High school students in the southern region of the Palomar Community College District will soon have access to college classrooms and college credit as part of a new partnership between Palomar and the Poway Unified School District.

The plan to launch a “Middle College” campus at the Palomar College Rancho Bernardo Education Center was recently finalized by both districts, and will establish a new secondary school within the facility that opened in 2018 off Rancho Bernardo Road.

“We have the opportunity to change these students’ perception of themselves—and their relationship to college,” said Glyn Bongolan, Chair of Palomar’s Counseling Department. “We want to help them become students who believe they are college material, and who want to go to college.”

Patty Hurtt, the Director of Alternative Programs at Poway Unified, said this will be her district’s first middle college campus.

“For our students, we hope the benefit is that they see that they are college learners and do have the potential to go to college, in an environment where there’s not a lot of distractions other than school,” said Hurtt.

For years, the Palomar Community College District (PCCD) has provided several ways for high school students in the district to earn college credit. A number of high schools throughout the 2,500-square-mile PCCD have hosted “dual enrollment” courses in partnership with the college, for example.

What’s different about Poway Middle College is that it will be the first high school located entirely on one of Palomar’s campuses: Students will attend class at Palomar in Rancho Bernardo; they will have access to the library there; and they will have additional support from Palomar’s staff on site.

Participating students will have the opportunity to graduate high school with up to a full year’s head start on their college coursework.

“The Rancho Bernardo campus is new, it’s beautiful, and this is an opportunity for students in that area to take college classes that are close to where they live,” said Justin Smiley, Palomar’s Dean of Arts, Media & Business Administration. “It’s an opportunity to finish high school, but also make a lot of great progress in completing their college degree or certificate.”

This fall, the program will launch with 80 to 100 students in 11th grade; in 2023, it will expand to 12th grade.

“The idea is not to reach the advanced students who want to go on to an Ivy League school,” said Smiley. “This will really provide students who may not otherwise think of themselves as college students with opportunities to attend college.”

Dual Enrollment Supervisor Jennifer Finn said the school is “designed to serve high-potential, high-risk students, typically from underrepresented populations that don’t normally participate in college after graduation.”

“It’s a way for them to experience college, and whether they come to Palomar or go on to a CSU or other university, this will help them see themselves as college students for the first time,” said Finn.