By Jenelle Franklin
Washtenaw Technical Middle College students are part of the campus landscape at Washtenaw Community College. WTMC is the sole charter school affiliated with WCC, its students share the buildings and experiences of college life with the rest of the student population, creating a more age diverse campus.
WTMC is celebrating its 20th year in 2017 with 640 students enrolled. In eight years, the student body at WTMC has doubled. At the WCC board meeting on April 25, its contract was renewed for another five years.
“We are the fastest growing school in Washtenaw County,” Dean Karl Covert said.
Covert has found WTMC to be, “wonderful for students, creating meaningful opportunities for students,” he said.
“Students can come here in their ninth, 10th, or 11th grade years. Some students have never been to high school, they come straight from middle schools,” Katie Glupker middle college English teacher and student council adviser said.
The curriculum and rate of progression in WTMC is different than found in a traditional public high school Glupker said.
“We know that students progress at different rates,” Glupker said. “Some students come in and they are really strong in a subject so they are ready pretty quickly to take college level in that subject. Some students have a weak subject and so we keep them with us until they are ready to do college work.”
The large load of responsibilities being placed on WTMC students is not overlooked by Glupker. “We are asking a lot of a student to say, ‘before you graduate high school you have to do a college course’,” Glupker said.
WTMC students undergo skills training for assisting in the adult-filled classrooms during their transition period.
These are called “soft skills,” and are taught during the first five weeks of the semester. The system has levels and when completed, the students progress towards mastering all of the soft skills curriculum.
“These are different than academic skills. Things like: communication, being prepared for class, being responsible for your stuff, how do you talk to the instructor, how do you stay in class and not leave?” Glupker said.
Caitlin Do, 15, is a first year WTMC student. Do is a paralegal studies student with a transfer to the University of Michigan in her future plans.
When it comes to college vs. high school atmosphere in campus classrooms, “I was surprised that there were more similarities than differences,” Do said, “you realize that everyone is just a kind of a bigger high school student.”
The classroom environment of all ages, “is really amazing to me, how much we have in
common even though the age difference is so big,” Do said. Do giggled as she reported a classmate she regularly speaks with has a daughter older than her, “We focus more on character.”
“I love (WTMC), the mature environment, the big education focus, not as cliquey as other schools,” Kaylee Guzi said.
Guzi, 17, moved to Michigan two years ago. Previously from Redding, California, Guzi is in her first year at WTMC, studying 3D animation. Her 30-minute drive is worth the experience Guzi mentioned. She first attended Dexter high school, and admits she has enjoyed her time in Michigan more on WCC’s campus.
“There are classes you can choose yourself, degrees you can pursue and you can pretty much set up your schedule how ever you want to…It prepares you for college better,” Guzi said.
Guzi has 82 credits to complete at WCC, which will be a three-year process she said. Guzi has gotten advice from staff and has her own wisdom to share after her first semester earning college credit, “Turn everything in early, it gets stressful when you wait until the last minute.”
WTMC students are able to participate in campus clubs and activities. Clubs, family, friends and school work can fill up a student’s plate quickly. Do found that opportunity was also a burden, “I did have a couple clubs
going on, but I had to leave those temporarily, it started to get over whelming for me. I had to get in the feel of the college schedule, but hopefully will be going back to those clubs soon.”
“When my grades on specific quizzes or tests started to get a little lower than I wanted them to be, before it got to the point where it would hurt my grade overall, I started to back off. Now I feel like I am so much better at scheduling,” Do said.
Kamal Khatib, 16, is a first year WTMC student, who just completed his second semester on campus. He is a pre-law student who admires the teaching style and commitment to students he has found with his math teacher Mr. Linford.
“Mr. Linford really connects with his students, I think he is a great teacher, and Ms. Glupker too,” Khatib said.
Khatib spends free time outside of class on the basketball courts of the fitness center across the street from campus. His attachment to WTMC grew when his older sister attended and he saw her success develop.
“My sister went here, and now she is in medical school and doing really well,” Khatib said. He also sees his younger sister attending when she gets older.
Khatib previously attended Central Academy, where he would have stayed if not for his chance to experience a college-learning environment.
“The students here have more freedom, in my old school you raise your hand, don’t talk, can’t get out of place. Two bathroom passes per semester. You have more freedom and more room to talk here,” Khatib said. “I think you learn better this way.”