Colleges Boost Partnerships With County High Schools

(Don Rejonis - Montgomery College)
By Aruna Jain
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 19, 2006

On Friday night, Northwood High School students took in a performance of "Imani Winds," about entertainer Josephine Baker, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.

In the middle of last week, Wheaton High School students sat in on a political science class at Montgomery College; two days later, Wheaton students were visited by University of Maryland, Baltimore County students who talked to them about college life.

At Thomas S. Wootton and Gaithersburg high schools, more than 100 students pay tuition to take classes taught by Montgomery College professors.

College collaboration with Montgomery County public high schools is nothing new, but three major players -- Montgomery College, the University System of Maryland and the county school system -- have committed to increasing the number of college programs, courses and academic, cultural and other college-related activities that are available to students.

The goal is to "make college more accessible to a broader number of people," said William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland. "Hopefully this is going to have a very positive impact and provide increased college participation."

Yesterday, Kirwan, school Superintendent Jerry D. Weast and Montgomery College President Charlene R. Nunley were scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding to formalize their collaboration at a signing ceremony at Wootton High School in Rockville.

How the agreement will take shape in county schools is still up for discussion. Officials from the community college and the 11-school university system will hammer out details in coming months.

"As far as we're concerned, the possibilities are open," said Kate Harrison, a Montgomery County public schools spokeswoman. Many collaborations are already in place, she said.

Wheaton High School currently works with both Montgomery College and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to expose students to college life.

Every Friday, a liaison from the Baltimore County campus teaches lessons on college awareness to ninth-graders in the school's Institute for Global and Cultural Studies Academy.

Students read and analyze college brochures, meet with college mentors and tour college campuses. The liaison also coordinates interaction between high school teachers and university faculty.

"Most of our kids are first-generation college students," said Shauna Brown, who heads the academy. "They don't have many people who can tell them about college, so we're trying to get them as familiar with college as possible so they can access the supports in college and have that transition be seamless."

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