By Doug Oakley
BERKELEY -- Skyline High School students in Oakland will have the chance to earn an associate of arts degree at Berkeley City College before they graduate from high school under a new program starting in the fall, school officials announced Tuesday.
"Students always have always been able to take community college classes in high school, but this gives them a real, dedicated structure to do it," said Mark Frey, director of Skyline High School School's Computer Science and Technology Academy.
Frey said the nonprofit Career Ladders Project "did some matchmaking" and put his program at Skyline together with Berkeley City College. A $400,000 grant from software company SAP will help with curriculum development, policy, schedule integration, data sharing and academic support services.
"The kicker is that you get mentors with SAP and job shadowing," Kristina Palmer, director of program development at Career Ladders, told a group of Skyline High students at Berkeley City College on Tuesday.
Palmer said Skyline High School was chosen because its Computer Science and Technology Academy under Frey is best suited for the goals of getting kids involved in computer science and multimedia education.
"Think of Oakland and Skyline High as an island, and to get from one place to the next, like community college, you used to have to swim," Frey told students at the information session Tuesday. "Now you have a bridge to get there."
Katie Morgan, head of corporate social responsibility for SAP, said the company has offered grants, mentors and job shadowing in similar high school-to-community college or college programs in New York, Boston and Vancouver with similar funding amounts.
The $400,000 for the Skyline High School program will stretch over two years, she said.
"A lot of kids when they graduate, go 'What do I do now'?" Frey said. "If they get a two-year degree while in high school, they can keep going and transfer to a four-year college."
Frey said it would take plenty of focus for a high school student to get a two-year community college degree while still in high school, but it is certainly not impossible.
"More than likely they will take five or six classes and then when they graduate they just keep rolling," Frey said.
He said about 200 students will be involved in the program to start and then it will quickly move up to about 400 students the following year.
Berkeley City College President Debbie Budd told students if they are motivated enough to join the program during high school and get a degree from her school, they will have a leg up on other students.
"There are 112 community colleges in California, and we have the highest transfer rate to four year-colleges," she told students Tuesday. "And while you are in high school, your classes here are free."