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Union Public Schools Bringing College Experience To High School

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A picture of the proposed new site. A picture of the proposed new site.
The site where the new UCA will be built. The site where the new UCA will be built.
Students attend class at Union High School Friday. Students attend class at Union High School Friday.
Dr. Cathy Burden, Union Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Cathy Burden, Union Public Schools Superintendent

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Union Public Schools in Tulsa is transforming high school into higher education.

The district wants its students to graduate career and college-ready, so it's bringing college to them.

Union High School boasts more than 90 percent of its graduates plan to go on to college. But the little known fact behind that statistic is only 40 percent of them graduate college within five or six years.

"We think that's not acceptable so we want to help them be more prepared for the college experience," Dr Cathy Burden, Union Superintendent, said.

Union's Superintendent, Dr. Cathy Burden, is working with Tulsa Community College and Tulsa Tech to bring the college experience to her students.

It's called UCA, or Union Collegiate Academy.

"My parents urged me to get prepared for college. And I knew if I did that, it would be one foot in the door. So I feel like it was really helpful," Biola Jaji, a senior, said.

Seniors like Biola Jaji are taking college level courses for high school and college credit without ever leaving Union's campus. Jaji says after three college courses here, she's ready to attend OU next fall.

"I feel like it's going to be good," she said. "I know what I have coming. It's not going to be a shock to me. I'm prepared. I'm ready."

The new site of UCA will not only expand the program, but it will also make more room for the Union tenth graders who will join the high school next year.

Phase One is already underway, approved by voters last year. Phase Two requires a 60 percent approval by Union patrons next month.

If passed, Union will add another building roughly the size and the price tag of their massive activity center, the $25 million UMAC.  But the new three story building will have nearly three dozen classrooms, communal areas for studying, even a coffee shop.

"We hope that by encouraging them early giving them the skills and support early, we'll be able to reach down and encourage students who maybe wouldn't think of themselves as college graduates." Dr. Burden said.

Union High School students are earning more than 1,500 hours of college credit. The district says that saves them and their parents about $150,000 dollars in tuition.

Voters will head to the polls on February 8, 2011.

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