In the News: Middle College Brings Learning to Life

Article written by Madison Metropolitan School District, May 2015

Middle College Brings Learning to Life

Eric Hotchkiss M5 Culinary student in FEED Kitchen
Middle College culinary arts student, Eric Hotchkiss (Photo by MMSD)

MADISON—Lunch just ended and La Follette High School junior Eric Hotchkiss is leaving campus for the day. He’s not headed home or to hang out with friends; this 16-year-old is going to college. Hotchkiss is a culinary arts student at Middle College, a dual-credit career pathway program for high school juniors with hopes of advancing their education in one of three industries: healthcare, manufacturing or culinary arts. Madison Metropolitan School District partners with the Workforce Development Board to deliver Middle College, a program to re-engage students in school through dual credit and internship opportunities.

After his morning high school courses, Hotchkiss rides a taxi to his afternoon classes at the Madison College Truax campus, one of a handful of technical college campuses that host the Middle College program. On Thursdays, he trades his books and assignments for his chef’s beanie and apron and meets his classmates at the northside’s FEED Kitchens for his 12:30-5:00 p.m. cooking lab.

Here he’s earning credits toward an associate’s degree, and if all goes as planned, he’ll graduate high school in 2016 with five courses completed toward an Associate in Applied Science 2-year degree and a full scholarship to finish it at Madison College.

Making school more meaningful

“Why do I need to learn this?” That’s one question high school teachers hear over and over from students disengaged with the traditional school setting. Middle College offers a refreshing change of pace, with a hands-on approach to learning and a tangible goal to work toward — a career.

“Freshman year was kind of rough,” Hotchkiss admits. “It was kind of up and down.” Now, after a few months at Middle College, he’s “doing pretty good.”

Tiajuana Rice, Workforce Development Board Director of Programs, stresses that not every student who has an aversion to homework or daydreams during class is a good candidate for the program. To succeed here, it takes “a willingness to learn” and to “take advantage of opportunity,” she notes.

Both Hotchkiss and his mother were convinced the program was a good match. “My mom was pretty excited when she heard I got accepted. She thought it was actually a good thing for me to do.”

Aspiring entrepreneur  

Back at La Follette, the last bell is ringing and Hotchkiss’ friends are starting their after school sports and clubs. But Hotchkiss has a few more hours of school left. What do they think about his double life as a college student? “They try to make jokes about it,” he laughs. “But it’s getting me somewhere in life.”

Someday he even hopes to open a restaurant. “Coming out of this program, I think I can run my own business, have my own restaurant, and just build up from that,” he says. But don’t start making dinner plans yet — you might not find it in the local dining guide. “I’ve always wanted to travel. To go somewhere far.”

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