By SAMANTHA TIPLER
For The Herald and News
On Friday afternoon 14 Klamath Union seniors celebrated a year of hard work well done.
Crossing a stage at Oregon Institute of Technology, they received honors cords for graduation and a unique pin with a design blending KU’s red and Oregon Tech’s blue.
“We are proud of you and you should be proud of yourself for all you have accomplished this year,” Marla Edge, Oregon Tech director of academic agreements told them. “We’ve added a lot to your load and your stress. But it will be beneficial as you graduate and move into your future.”
These students were those able to attend of the 20 who earned 18 college credits this school year through the Liberal Arts Academy — a partnership between Klamath Union and the Oregon Institute of Technology that puts students on a solid path toward college success after high school graduation.
“The have learned the skills they need for college in the future and they have completed 18 college credits while in high school,” said Klamath Union Principal Charlene Herron. “They work to put into this unique experience a lot of time, effort and energy.”
Students completed two college classes at OIT each term, plus two more classes before Oregon Tech started in the fall. They added to the normal senior workload with college level rigor, homework and deadlines.
Peterson is headed to Brigham Young University after graduation where she plans to study special education. She said the Liberal Arts Academy has helped prepare her for what she will face when she starts in the fall.
“It’s given me a better idea of what professors are going to be like and how college class works,” she said. “
“It’s a lot of work but I feel like this is what college is going to be like. I’ve learned a lot,” said Adam Rooney, 18, who is headed to Whitman College after graduation. “High expectations. It was totally worth it,”
This year the program was rebranded as the Liberal Arts Academy, but it has existed since 2010, when it was called the Oregon Tech Cohort. Previously, this college-bound group of students began taking courses as freshmen and progressed together through the four years of high school to culminate by taking classes at OIT in their senior year.
Organizers wanted to open the opportunity to more students, better aligning with AVID practices at KU. This year it changed to allow students to enter into the program their senior year and rebranded as the Liberal Arts Academy.
Students earned 18 transferrable credits this school year by taking Oregon Tech courses during period one and two and taking other Klamath Union courses at the high school in the afternoon. Students drove themselves or took a bus to the college campus. Fall term they took classes only with their fellow KU students, but later in the year they took classes mixed with other college students.
“It was nice being on the campus and you got used to seeing people you didn’t know,” Peterson said. “It was really cool.”
“It’s just different than being in a high school class. I know all of these kids and a lot of classes we take in high school are together, but still, having a professor and having to email exchanges and meeting during office hours and discussing, ti really helps you move along,” Rooney said. “The expectations are higher. You realize you have to put in more work. Everyone in the class did. That made it cool. It’s the next level up.”
Through the Liberal Arts Academy high school students pay only $25 per credit, or have scholarships for those who cannot afford the cost. Many students pair this program with high school dual credit, putting them a step ahead when they arrive at college.
“A lot of students, by the time they do this and their dual credit, they can go into college as sophomores,” said Klamath Union Vice Principal Jennifer Cole.
At Friday’s pinning ceremony, KU faculty, Klamath Falls City Schools board members and administration, Oregon Tech faculty, families and friends celebrated the 20 students who completed the rigorous program.
Both Rooney and Peterson said they would recommend the Liberal Arts Program to younger students.
“They should definitely do it. It’s going to prepare you for college,” Peterson said. “I think this is a really good simulator of what college is going to be.”
“I would say to do it if you’re planning on going to college and wanting to experience,” Rooney said. “It’s a good opportunity, that’s what it is.”
“The workload’s not like high school workload. It’s a lot more. I was up a lot later,” Jane Peterson, 17, said after the ceremony. She recalled having to meet online homework deadlines of 11:59 p.m.
In her speech during the pinning ceremony, Cole congratulated the seniors for their accomplishment, and reminded everyone in attendance of the reason why a complete education matters to these students’ futures.
“We are depending on them to take the lead. We’re depending on them to solve problems the world has never encountered before. We’re looking to them to create systems that have never been imagined and to fill jobs that don’t exist,” she said. “Most importantly, we are looking to them to become our engaged citizens to lead the way so we can have the kind of world we all deserve to live in.”