PATH TO COLLEGE & CAREER: NUSD high school students not only preparing for college — they’re attending it

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CECA teacher Jacquie Freitas and three of her students

(One in a series of stories looking at  NUSD college and career preparation.)

Maddie is on track to graduate from Inderkum High School in May with nearly a full year of college credits earned.

She and dozens of classmates in the California Early College Academy (CECA) are not just preparing for college – they’re attending it.

CECA is a partnership between Natomas Unified and the Los Rios Community College District in which participating Inderkum juniors and seniors can split their time between Inderkum High and an adjoining American River College satellite campus. They can take up to 10 classes over a two-year period, earning nearly 30 transferable college credits, with NUSD paying for tuition and books.

Maddie says that skills she’s learned along the way – discipline, organization, responsibility – will be invaluable in years to come. “This is serious, this is college, you need to be focused and really pay attention to what you’re doing in class,” she said.

Maddie wants to major in both education and theater arts in college, preparing for potential careers as a teacher or actor.

The four-year CECA program prepares students for college as freshmen and sophomores, then paves the way for upper classmen who pass an American River College placement test to enroll in up to two college classes per semester, plus one summer class each year. Eligibility requires that they maintain a 2.77 grade point average at Inderkum and pass each college class with a grade of “C” or better.

CECA is designed to attract students who leave middle school with a solid academic track record and a determination to earn a college degree. Consideration also is given to providing opportunities for teenage students from families of poverty, underserved populations, and to children whose parents did not graduate from college.

Nearly 100 CECA juniors and seniors are taking classes at American River College this year. Options include college English, History, Anthropology, Political Science, Psychology and Philosophy. At Inderkum, they also are required to take rigorous college-prep courses: In Math, for example, they must take Trigonometry, Calculus or Advanced Placement Math as juniors, then Calculus, Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus, or American River College Math as seniors.

“They’re very motivated,” Jacquie Freitas, who oversees Inderkum’s CECA program, said of participating students taking ARC classes. “When I see them working in study groups, I see college students – the way they try to prepare for the exams or even for their homework, I honestly see college students working to go to class prepared for whatever the professor is asking of them.”

Each of their four years in CECA, students attend an Inderkum AVID class — an acronym for the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, which focuses on enhancing critical thinking, inquiry, writing, collaboration, organizational, and other such skills to prepare teens for college. Among other things, CECA seniors this year have filled out college-aid applications and worked on college admission essays in their AVID class.

Haley, 17, said she expects to graduate from Inderkum this year with 24 transferable college credits. She already has been accepted to attend Occidental College next year en route to a career as a prosecuting attorney, perhaps a District Attorney someday.

Haley said Inderkum’s CECA program has been “super beneficial” to her. “I saw there was an opportunity to take college courses, and to get ahead, and to really get a college experience – and that was the biggest thing I was looking for. I wanted to be prepared for college. Now I feel like I really am.”

Advice she would give to students considering applying for CECA? “Do it,” Haley said simply. “Absolutely do it.”

 For more information about CECA, click here.