The cost of a college education hasn’t gone down in recent years, but through the efforts of the administration and teaching staff at Lakeland Union High School, steps are being taken to lessen that load for students who plan to pursue a college degree.
According to LUHS English teacher Andrea Donner-Wirtz, LUHS has embarked on a new opportunity for high school seniors to participate in University of Wisconsin English classes being offered at the school.
The two classes are English 101: College Writing and Critical Reading; and English 250: Introduction to Literary Studies.
Because these two courses are being offered locally, students can earn up to six UW credits that are transferable to most accredited post-secondary institutions at no cost, if they successfully complete the courses.
As part of the pilot year for the program, 11 seniors have successfully completed English 101 and are now in the process of completing English 250.
Donner-Wirtz is the instructor for both courses.
For Principal Jim Bouché, the involvement for LUHS was designed as a win-win for both the school and the students.
“A father of a couple of my [former] students at Eagan High School became the public relations person at UW-Marathon three years ago,” Bouché said. “He and I reconnected and started talking about the possibility of ‘college in the schools’ at LUHS.”
From those early discussions, Bouché arranged a meeting with Dr. Keith Montgomery, from UW-Marathon County, to talk more about the possibilities.
While LUHS students have had the opportunity to take college-level courses through Nicolet College in the past, there is a difference.
“The difference is that these college classes are taught by our teacher and not their professor,” Bouché said.
The curriculum used is the college curriculum taught at UW-Marathon.
But there are some conditions that make the program unique, according to Bouché:
• The LUHS teacher must have a master’s degree in the course discipline; in this case, Donner-Wirtz has a master’s degree in English.
• The teacher is trained in the UW-M curriculum and has a mentor at UW-M; and
• The class has to be set up to mirror a college class that would be held on campus.
Similar programs had already been set up and have been offered at Wausau East/West, D.C. Everest, Marathon and other high schools around the Wausau area.
Because of the opportunities that would be afforded students and would be beneficial to area families, the LUHS school board curriculum committee gave its blessing for LUHS to begin setting up the new curriculum.
“With the changes in Youth Options and Course Options in the state of Wisconsin (DPI), this makes us a very competitive academic high school in northern Wisconsin,” Bouché said.
“I believe, we are the only school north of Wausau which offers this opportunity.”
“These classes are offered through the Youth Options Program,” Donner-Wirtz said. “There is no cost to the students and their families as long as students successfully complete the course. Any student who fails the course or drops the course after the 10-day deadline at the start of each semester will be responsible for the prorated cost of the class.”
In addition to being transferable to any UW System institution, the credits are also accepted at most accredited post-secondary schools, Donner-Wirtz said.
As per the requirements for inclusion in the program, LUHS has assigned Donner-Wirtz as the instructor for the local class.
“I am the instructor for these courses. I have been working with professor Holly Hassell from UW-Marathon County since last summer. She has provided [and approved] most of the curriculum for the courses, but the classes are taught by me,” Donner-Wirtz said.
As for the students, the course provides an opportunity to get a leg up on their college education.
“I first heard about this college English opportunity through the high school,” LUHS senior Madeline Koengeter said.
“The school had been considering adding another English course for those students who wanted to push themselves and get guaranteed college credit throughout the UW System.”
For Ellie Ottoson and Lily Johnson, their introduction to the opportunity was much the same.
“My junior year, my teacher recommended that I take the class,” Ottoson said. “To be accepted into the class all you have to do is pass the placement test you are given, and I was fortunate enough to have gotten in.”
“I first heard of this course through my AP language and composition teacher,” Johnson noted. “She first introduced this class to us because she knew we are all college-bound students.”
Getting into the class is important, but once the students have had a chance to study at the college level, the rewards are great.
“The most rewarding aspect of this class is to see how far I, as well as the others in the class, have grown,” Koengeter said. “I find that I may not immediately enjoy some of the assignments due to their challenging nature, but in the end, the gratification of seeing an essay you have built and molded, or finally understanding the complexity of a poem, is greater than the hard work I have put in.”
“This class is very beneficial going into college because I feel my English and grammar skills are now sufficient for more advanced college courses,” Johnson said.
And for the pragmatic Ottoson, being allowed to earn college credit while still in high school has been a bonus.
“Being a part of this class will help me gain credits, so that I can move to the next English course offered. This class will also give me skills that I might not have gotten in a ‘normal’ high school course,” she said.
The rewards have also given the students a new perspective on their future plans.
“This course has prepared me for college and beyond by helping me take responsibility for my own learning, teaching me to not be afraid of a challenge, and to think critically to develop my ideas to the fullest,” Koengeter said.
“This class has challenged me enough to feel ready to take on other courses like English 101 and 250 in a college environment,” Johnson added. “I would highly recommend this class to future students. This course has prepared me for a real experience at college and has transformed my English skills tremendously. Not only has this class strengthened my skills, but it has guaranteed me six more credits of English going into the university next year.”
More details about both classes, the credits and cost is available at http://www.luhs.k12.wi.us/page/5558.
Raymond T. Rivard may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org