UC Davis Today: West Sac charter school inspires college dreams

  • Boy with a robot

    Sixth grader Ryan Starr shows off his robot "The Leach" during presentations on the last day of school.

  • Boy demonstrating robot

    Ryan's favorite feature of the robot created by his group is "the wall," which was designed to protect the wheels and to be used for defensive tactics.

  • Boy holding up sign to another boy in a hat

    Students, who are encouraged to take community college classes, also work on community projects to connect their education to the world.

  • “Everyone learns differently. That is the approach we take,” says Yolanda Falkenberg, executive director, or principal, at West Sac Prep.

  • A headless body in a yellow T-shirt holding a chicken

    West Sac Prep helps students identify questions and interests as they individually learn in a way that works for them.

  • Boy holding a chicken

    Students like Jackson Lampi, 14, use their individual learning styles to explore the world and see education as a path to a better future.

Four dreams for college

Portrait of Elisa Magallanes

Video by Karen Nikos/UC Davis
(2 min 23 sec)

West Sac charter school inspires college dreams

When they arrived at West Sacramento Early College Prep Charter School as seventh-graders, the statistics said they had little promise of graduating from high school, much less moving on to higher education. But on Sunday, 32 historically underserved high school seniors will graduate and take their next step in education — advancing to a university, a community college, a trade or vocational school, or the military.

“We are really proud of the success of these students and their accomplishments,” said Harold Levine, dean of the University of California, Davis, School of Education, which launched the charter school in 2007 in partnership with Sacramento City College and the Washington Unified School District. “The school, the staff and the faculty have clearly made a difference in these students’ lives.” Levine also serves as the charter school’s board president.

Most of these graduates will be the first in their families to attend college; still others have English as their second language. Some of these students struggled with one or more subjects in earlier grades. Now, they boast future plans that include prestigious universities — UC Davis, UCLA, UC Santa Cruz and others.

They will all graduate at 10 a.m. June 9 at Freeborn Hall on the UC Davis campus, where they will be presented diplomas and T-shirts each sporting the name of the student's future institution of higher learning.

“West Sac Prep” is part of a larger movement, begun a decade ago, to establish “early college” schools throughout the country. The UC Davis School of Education received $400,000 in 2006 from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative, which helped launch the school.

Nationwide, 50 percent to 70 percent of children of color, or who live in underserved areas, drop out of high school, said Paul Heckman, associate dean of the UC Davis School of Education and a researcher on school leadership and high school completion issues. Furthermore, the years-of-school completion rates have dropped considerably in the United States in the past 20 years.

On the UC Davis home page: West Sac Prep seniors celebrate their path to graduation and beyond. This photo and those in the slideshow above were taken by Karen Higgins of UC Davis.

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