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Program Puts College On Middle Schoolers’ Minds

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – We’ve all heard about the importance of starting early when considering higher education, but how about sixth grade?

A new program Oltman Middle School is getting children thinking about college before they start high school, and it’s incorporated into the curriculum.

At just 12-years-old, Victoria Hurst is already planning her future.

“Probably the University of Minnesota,” said Victoria Hurst, a seventh grader at Oltman Middle, when asked which college she wants to attend.

It is a requirement as part of her seventh grade curriculum.  On Tuesday, she and her classmates learned about budgeting; balancing tuition with rent and other expenses.

“It’s fun,” Hurst said. “I like it. It’s really good to help prepare us.”

Oltman is one of about two dozen middle schools around the state implementing the “Ramp Up to Readiness” program.

It’s an initiative out of the University of Minnesota designed to include college prep work into the school day — the goal is to prepare students for higher education.

“You have to start young, just like the foundations for math, you have to start young and build on foundations,” said Becky Schroeder, principal at Oltman Middle.

Each grade takes a different focus.

Sixth graders look at career options and learning styles.

Seventh graders focus on financial planning.

Eighth graders learn how to use high school as a spring board for college and set academic goals.

“The universities have a vested interest because what’s happening is a lot of kids are going to college, but they’re not finishing,” said Cathy Henderson, a teacher at Oltman.

Just weeks into the program, and Henderson is already seeing students thinking long-term.

“The hope is if we can get them started at a younger age to get those good habits started earlier, they’re just going to be more successful later in life,” Henderson said.

Giving students such as Victoria a head start on their future.

“I’d like to be a veterinarian or teacher,” Henderson said. “I’m still kind of deciding.”

And the new coursework isn’t taking the place of more traditional classes; it’s in addition to the curriculum.

The classes don’t last all year, either. They’re just a semester, and more schools are expected to take part in this program next year.

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