Revolutionary things are happening in the realm of education in Milpitas.

Located conveniently across the street from Milpitas High School, the San Jose City College Milpitas Extension — run via partnership by the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) and the San Jose Evergreen Community College District (SJECCD) — opened its doors in 2016. Since then, it’s quickly become the pulse of education in our community, cultivating an innovative environment in which students are able to thrive.

Last month, on 1/8/19, a joint meeting was held by the MUSD and SJECCD Boards of Trustees.

Extension Director Michael Mooney, along with MUSD staff and others from the Extension team, gave an overview of all the milestones the college had reached over the past year: “This is one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever done in my life; and to find a community so hungry for education, and two organizations so ready to partner, and to do something so unique and special and brave…it’s a gift. It will cap my professional life.”

Boasting 8 classrooms, the Milpitas Extension has offered up a much-needed dose of community, connection, and opportunity. It offers Milpitas High school students the ability to sign up for dual enrollment, which means they can take classes during their regular high school day schedule. Meanwhile, concurrent enrollment, whereby students can take San Jose City College (SJCC) courses to gain college credits, is also available. Granting students the chance to graduate high school with some college credits under their belts opens up a wealth of opportunity. And the courses — and textbooks — are offered to high school students for free.

In a one-year period spanning from 2017 to 2018, over 450 students from Milpitas High took college courses, while a total of 955 college students also underwent Milpitas Extension studies.

Mooney also mentioned that the Extension doesn’t only exist to serve students; one of their goals from the very beginning has been to promote community enrichment. And so the Milpitas Extension serves as a kind of community center, having hosted 76 community events in the past year, among them events like the Cultural Fusion Festival, the Fireside Chat Series (featuring Latino community leaders), a Robotics workshop, and even a Renter’s Rights workshop.

To keep the students deeply engaged, the Milpitas Extension also hosts some unique gatherings. For example, last December, they hosted a Finals Study Break event, where students from Milpitas High and the City College could show up for some trivia, fun, and healthy snacks — all while learning how to deal with stress in healthy ways, and how to practice good study techniques. About 50 students attended.

During the Milpitas College Extension’s presentation, Frank Valdez, a senior at Milpitas High, went up to speak. He spoke of how he had always struggled in high school, with below-average grades to show for his efforts. However, when he started taking classes at the Extension, the experience proved an absolute game-changer for him, transforming his life and the way he saw and understood himself as a student. Suddenly, he was not only getting A’s, he was feeling confident about who he was and what he had to offer:

“I’ve made some mistakes,” said Valdez. “But having SJCC gave me a new path into my future, changing me from being this classified ‘bad student’ into an outstanding student…” He ended his comments by thanking the boards for making the Extension available to students. “Thank you for having this program and making this available to us. Thanks for making us feel like college is a step away; it’s not like a thousand miles away.”

Milpitas High School Principal Francis Rojas got up to speak shortly after Valdez. He spoke of Valdez’s motivation, and the drastic change he had seen him undergo. Rojas also expressed his appreciation for the SJECCD partnership and collaboration:

“This is a rare opportunity for a high school principal to have. To have a partnership with a college that’s this close,” said Rojas. “Because what comes with this partnership totally feeds into my focus as a principal at the high school around equity through engagement. This partnership is all about equity and access for our students, and that leads to opportunity for all of our students.”

Some other big milestones reached by the Milpitas Extension:

  • Last year, during the Summer 2018 semester, a total of 188 out of 206 students earned a grade of “C” or higher. Not only that, but they reported that the most common grade was actually an “A.” This puts the Summer session success rate at 91%.
  • Back in October 2018, the Milpitas College Extension received a commendation from the City of Milpitas for all its community accomplishments. In an interview with The Milpitas Beat toward the end of 2018, Jorge Escobar, who currently serves as Interim Vice Chancellor of SJECCD,  said, “The commendation came as a result of the great work the team is doing at the Extension, serving the district, the high school students and also the community in general. In less than two years, we’ve been able to go from a piece of land that was empty to building the facility and having a fully operational educational land in Milpitas.”
  • A Coding Academy was also launched, for elementary-grade students. For 8 weeks, these students were privy to coding knowledge, and able to develop and enhance their typing and scratch programming skills, among others. (One of the youngest students was in Kindergarten!)

At present, the Milpitas College Extension is gearing up to start offering Middle College High School, which would create an opportunity to empower “high-potential, high risk students” by offering educational programs that will challenge them while propelling them to the next level. By providing students with more intimate class sizes and the chance to take college classes concurrently, this upcoming Middle College High School would stand to make a major impact in the lives of Milpitas youth.

To learn more about the Milpitas College Extension, visit their website: https://www.sjccxmilpitas.com

Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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