Learning for Life: A Spotlight on the University Prep Department

Back-to-school is always an exciting time. For some of this year’s returning Visions students, their back-to-school was full of new classes, new curriculum and new faces. But for many of our recent University Prep Academy graduates, their back-to-school was even more exciting – their first day of college!

From Sacramento State all the way to the University of Alabama, our grads packed up, moved out and moved on to their next adventures. The opportunity to pursue postsecondary education would not be possible without the University Prep Department, which helps our students in the University Prep Academy get ready for the world of higher education.

“We support students through building multiple paths of success toward graduation. The most unique path is by meeting A-G and NCAA requirements necessary for graduates to attend a four year university,” shares Christy McKinnis, Principal for the University Prep Academy. “However, what we are realizing through 14 years of supporting this program is that encouraging high school students to earn 12 credits of community college credit while in high school increases their success in postsecondary education. So our team ensures that academic plans include community college opportunities and that we have systems in place to support success in those classes.”

College Ready

Students in the University Prep program dream big, setting their sights on schools like Purdue and UCLA. Many of those dreams begin early; in the University Prep Academy specifically, 106 students are currently taking community college courses while also enrolled in high school. Visions’ dual enrollment and other early college opportunities allow these students to get a head start on their goals and set them up for even more success in their postsecondary pursuits.

A visual of where our Class of 2023 UPrep graduates are currently going to school!

World Ready

Despite the name, University Prep is not exclusively focused on preparing students for college. The program also prepares students for work life, military life and more, focusing on what the academy calls a six-year plan as opposed to a traditional four-year plan.

“In our model, we like to focus on a six-year plan (four years of high school and two years of post-high school) to ensure students have the opportunity to successfully transition into their postsecondary plans,” explains Christy. “Each student who comes to University Prep has unique needs and goals, and we have instructional resources and systems to support the many different plans our students have for beyond high school.”

The program also focuses on preparing students socially and emotionally for life after high school and college.

“My role is the 9th grade school counselor for the University Prep Academy,” explains Estrella Rosales. “I am responsible for helping the 9th graders understand what the A-G requirements are and why they are important, help build community among the 9th graders as a cohort, and be a support person if they are experiencing any socioemotional distress, among other things. It is crucial in our academy that students in 9th grade have a solid foundation to reach their postsecondary goals while also having the skills to cope with different situations.”

With a myriad of dreams, goals and aspirations, each student at Visions is unique, and the University Prep staff sees that. With support from academy credentialed teachers, principals and counselors, our students make their dreams become reality.

“Students in the UP Academy are ambitious,” shares Estrella. “I feel privileged to be able to work with these students as well as the amazing staff that work together to help students accomplish their goals and help them get ready for life after high school.”

Success Stories

“We have many examples of how UP prepares students for success, but one comes to mind. This student was non-verbal for the better part of all four years while enrolled in UP. Our teachers banded together to determine how to help the student communicate effectively, engage in school activities and meet their high school goals. The teachers found that the student was exceptionally able and enjoyed communicating through Google Chat. After developing trusting relationships with their teachers, the student even participated in the US Government debate.” – Lynda Laymance, University Prep Vice Principal

Check out the story of Class of 2023 University Prep graduate, Salwa!