Reuney, Kadali attend Poway to Palomar Middle College

Grace Tseng, Sports Editor

The Poway to Palomar Middle College (PPMC) opened its campus to their inaugural class of 37 high school juniors, August 15.

PPMC is the first middle college in the Poway Unified School District (PUSD), and the school offers high school students the opportunity to enroll in both high school and college courses simultaneously. In this three-year pilot program, students attend high school or college courses on the Palomar Community College campus in Rancho Bernardo two days a week and work in an internship two days a week. Every Friday, students attend college success support courses. Students are currently in the phases of applying for internships and preparing for job interviews.

(From left to right) Sawyer Balcombe (11), Isabel Rosa (11) and Cinco Webb (11) ask one another prospective interview questions in preparation for their internship interviews. Poway to Palomar Middle College students each attend classes for three days of the week and work in an internship for two days of the week. Photo by Swasti Singhai

According to PUSD Director of Alternative Programs and PPMC Principal Patty Hurtt, plans to open PPMC have been in the works since 2018. 

“My executive director and I started going to a lot of middle college seminars to learn about how to start one, and when Palomar College opened a campus in Rancho Bernardo nearby, we thought it would be the perfect fit,” Hurtt said. 

Hurtt visited middle college campuses in Los Angeles, Orange County, New York, Georgia, and New Jersey in order to gain a better understanding of the campus culture.

“I think the biggest thing that attracted me was that these middle colleges were creating an atmosphere that makes [students’] educations feel more relevant to them,” Hurtt said. “For students who had somewhat lower GPAs in traditional school, a lot of them decided that [being at a middle college] was worthwhile for them.”

PPMC looks for students with GPAs between 2.2 and 2.9 who have completed most of their required high school graduation credits and have a willingness to complete a working internship. 

In the months leading up to PPMC’s opening, Hurtt personally interviewed students who were interested in participating in the program and reviewed self-introduction videos sent by interested students.

“I wanted to make sure students were comfortable, so I offered different mediums of interviews,” Hurtt said. “The interviews helped me ensure that the students wanted to be here for themselves and not because a parent told them to apply. It helped me know each student as individuals with talents, hobbies, and personal reasons to attend.”

When former Westview student Henry Reuney (11) heard about PPMC, he said he felt excited to apply because of his interest in participating in the internship program.

Reuney attended Westview during his freshman and sophomore years, and said he discovered his passion for computer science after taking the AP Computer Science A class. Reuney hopes to intern as a software developer with MITRE Corporation. 

“I like computer programming and I learned some game design in AP Computer Science A, so I want to continue that in my internship,” Reuney said. “Hopefully, I’ll learn new coding skills that I can use to work on a project of my own.”

Former Westview student Abhinav Kadali (11) said he enjoys the level of freedom PPMC offers students in creating clubs and planning traditional high school activities. 

“Since we are the first PPMC class, I like that we are a smaller class because every voice has an impact on the choices we make, like picking out our Prom theme,” Kadali said. “There are no existing clubs yet, so we get to choose everything for ourselves.” 

Kadali is currently trying to form a band with his PPMC classmates in order to share their passion for music.

“Right now, a lot of our students are really passionate about music and we have people who play a lot of different instruments,” he said. “It is a little difficult because we only have so many people and we’re missing some instruments but we all really love music.”

According to Reuney, the smaller class size in his high school classes allows him to work with teachers and classmates on a closer basis.

“[In PPMC] we’re just one small community and we knew each other after the first week, so

I’m really comfortable with communicating with everyone and getting help from teachers if I need it,” Reuney said.

Comparatively, Reuney said that the PPMC environment contrasts that of his college courses. Reuney is currently taking Math 135 as one of his college courses as well as a counseling course designed for PPMC students to excel in a college environment.

“I feel like college courses are a bit harder than AP classes because the teachers are harder on you,” Reuney said. “Teachers will give you a big syllabus and it’s harder to get one-on-one time with your professor, so it trains you to be more independent. The counseling class helps with practical skills like time management.”

Teacher Janna Talbot, who assists students in all subjects, said she became interested in teaching for PPMC after hearing about the program in a district seminar. 

“I like that the students have a voice to make an individualized education plan for themselves,” Talbot said. “They can choose classes they are interested in and they give back to the community in their internships.”

 

Talbot previously taught math at Rancho Bernardo High School for 23 years and now assists students in all subjects. 

Similarly, alongside acting as PPMC’s principal, Hurtt utilizes her former experience as a math teacher to teach students taking Integrated I through Integrated III math.

“It’s difficult to be a math teacher and a principal at the same time, but I really enjoy it,” Hurtt said. “I know that not a lot of schools have such close teacher-to-principal interactions, but it feels nice knowing that the kids know they can reach me to ask questions if they’re struggling with anything.” 

For this school year, Hurtt said that her greatest priority is to ensure that each student gets placed in an internship they are happy to participate in. 

As for Talbot, she said she is excited to see the different opportunities the students are able to forge for themselves. 

“It seems like not a day goes by where I don’t hear another great idea from a student,” Talbot said. “Principal Hurtt is always so supportive of our students’ ideas and I know that whatever the idea is, we always try to make it happen. I’m really excited to see the clubs and activities that come to fruition from student ideas this year.” 

Reuney and Kadali both said they are appreciative of the supportive campus culture at PPMC. 

“I’m really happy to be a part of Poway to Palomar, and I think it’s the best program I could be in both academic-wise and in terms of my future,” Kadali said. “I’m really lucky to be able to take any classes I want and to have teachers and a principal who support me.”