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First group of students starts classes at high school at Three Rivers

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published September 04. 2012 11:00AM   Updated September 05. 2012 12:29AM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Math teacher Raena Kempe lead a class on the first day of Three Rivers Middle College Monday.

Norwich – Students enrolled in the new Three Rivers Middle College learned first thing on opening day Tuesday that their high school experience would be different.

College students will have lockers adjacent to theirs. They will share the college cafeteria at Three Rivers Community College with the older college students and, while they might have more independence than their high school counterparts in other schools, they will be expected to accept the adult responsibility that comes with it.

Three Rivers Middle College math teacher Raena Kempe stressed those lessons to her advisory group of students during the first hour of the first day of school in the E Wing at Three Rivers Community College as she gave them a tour of the school.

"The whole idea is for you to have responsibility," Kempe said. "If you miss anything in class, it's your responsibility to make it up."

Three Rivers announced the new program in early July after receiving state approval and funding for the magnet school. The state pays $7,900 of the tuition and the students' home towns pay the remaining $5,500. The program will remain for juniors and seniors only, but hopes to expand to 300 students within the next five years.

On Tuesday, 26 students attended and two were absent, Director Brad Columbus said.

"Everybody's a little nervous," Columbus said. "It's like a new school. It's different. All your friends aren't here. The students are excited about it, though."

The school will offer three main study majors, engineering, business and finance and hotel management. But students have expressed interest in deviating from those fields, especially for nursing programs.

"There's a great nursing program at Three Rivers," Kempe told students as they settled for their first academic class for the day. She offered to meet with students who either were undecided or wanted a different major. Students will earn college credit for some courses during their two years at the middle college.

Breanna Sanders of Waterford heard about the new Three Rivers Middle College from a family friend who was recruiting students. Sanders told two of her friends from Waterford High School over the summer, and the three met up Tuesday for their first day of school.

"I'm a fast person," Sanders said, "I want to get going." Sanders wants to study business and take nursing prerequisite courses in the new middle college that will stress college track education for high school juniors and seniors.

"I wanted to experience something different," said Sanders' friend, senior Yenifer Vasquez of Waterford.

And their friend, Mercedes Lee, also a Waterford senior, wants to study business and finance. She too wants the opportunity to get a college experience in high school.

Junior Kevin Palmer of Voluntown said he transferred from Norwich Regional Technical High School to the middle college to study engineering. He said he wanted the academic challenge and college atmosphere the new school offers.

"I transferred the day after I learned about it," he said.

Irma Wilhelm, magnet school coordinator for LEARN, the regional educational agency that partnered with Three Rivers for the middle college, said there are still logistics to be worked out in the new school.

In most of LEARN'S other magnet schools in the region, transportation has been the biggest kink, but cooperation from the sending towns helped ease that Tuesday. For example, a bus from North Stonington goes to Norwich Tech but can't get to the middle college in time, so a Norwich schools shuttle takes students to the college.

Lunches at the Three Rivers cafeteria are more expensive than regulations allow for high school students and might not meet the nutritional requirements. So LEARN has contracted with New London public schools to bring lunches to the middle college each day, with LEARN paying for that transportation.

Students will be able to order their hot or cold lunches and breakfasts for the following day at $2.80 per lunch and $1.35 per breakfast.

The middle college also still needs to obtain high school transcripts for about half the students. Those are important for knowing how many credits in which subjects students already have earned, Columbus said.

"We're putting students where we think they should be," Columbus said of the course assignments.

c.bessette@theday.com

Students enrolled in the new Three Rivers Middle College learned first thing on opening day Tuesday that their high school experience would be different.
College students will have lockers adjacent to theirs. They will share the college cafeteria at Three Rivers Community College with the older college students and, while they might have more independence than their high school counterparts in other schools, they will be expected to accept the adult responsibility that comes with it.
Three Rivers Middle College math teacher Raena Kempe stressed those lessons to her advisory group of students during the first hour of the first day of school in the E Wing at Three Rivers Community College as she gave them a tour of the school.
"The whole idea is for you to have responsibility," Kempe said. "If you miss anything in class, it's your responsibility to make it up."
Three Rivers announced the new program in early July after receiving state approval and funding for the magnet school. The state pays $7,900 of the tuition and the students' home towns pay the remaining $5,500. The program will remain for juniors and seniors only, but hopes to expand to 300 students within the next five years.
On Tuesday, 26 students attended and two were absent, Director Brad Columbus said.
"Everybody's a little nervous," Columbus said. "It's like a new school. It's different. All your friends aren't here. The students are excited about it, though."
The school will offer three main study majors, engineering, business and finance and hotel management. But students have expressed interest in deviating from those fields, especially for nursing programs.
"There's a great nursing program at Three Rivers," Kempe told students as they settled for their first academic class for the day. She offered to meet with students who either were undecided or wanted a different major. Students will earn college credit for some courses during their two years at the middle college.
Breanna Sanders of Waterford heard about the new Three Rivers Middle College from a family friend who was recruiting students. Sanders told two of her friends from Waterford High School over the summer, and the three met up Tuesday for their first day of school.
"I'm a fast person," Sanders said, "I want to get going." Sanders wants to study business and take nursing prerequisite courses in the new middle college that will stress college track education for high school juniors and seniors.
"I wanted to experience something different," said Sanders' friend, senior Yenifer Vasquez of Waterford.
And their friend, Mercedes Lee, also a Waterford senior, wants to study business and finance. She too wants the opportunity to get a college experience in high school.
Junior Kevin Palmer of Voluntown said he transferred from Norwich Regional Technical High School to the middle college to study engineering. He said he wanted the academic challenge and college atmosphere the new school offers.
"I transferred the day after I learned about it," he said.
Irma Wilhelm, magnet school coordinator for LEARN, the regional educational agency that partnered with Three Rivers for the middle college, said there are still logistics to be worked out in the new school.
In most of LEARN'S other magnet schools in the region, transportation has been the biggest kink, but cooperation from the sending towns helped ease that Tuesday. For example, a bus from North Stonington goes to Norwich Tech but can't get to the middle college in time, so a Norwich schools shuttle takes students to the college.
Lunches at the Three Rivers cafeteria are more expensive than regulations allow for high school students and might not meet the nutritional requirements. So LEARN has contracted with New London public schools to bring lunches to the middle college each day, with LEARN paying for that transportation.
Students will be able to order their hot or cold lunches and breakfasts for the following day at $2.80 per lunch and $1.35 per breakfast.
The middle college also still needs to obtain high school transcripts for about half the students. Those are important for knowing how many credits in which subjects students already have earned, Columbus said.
"We're putting students where we think they should be," Columbus said of the course assignments.
c.bessete@theday.com

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