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A High Schooler’s Perspective of the Alternative Center

By Ben Brown

The Sooner Building has 125 unique students who all partake in a style of education that typical high school students may not relate to. The Alternative Center provides a much smaller setting with a trimester system, closer relationships between teacher and student, and character building activities. 

A class for the typical high school student can have anywhere between 20 to 30 students crammed into the classroom, a stark contrast to the typical classroom at the Alternative Center. 

“There’s never more than 15 students to a class,” says Principal Hardy. “You get a lot of one one one assistance.”

Because of these smaller class sizes, there is a much closer relationship between the teachers and students. 

“If they have anxiety, it helps to have smaller classrooms,” says math teacher Mrs. Lai. “The kids who are afraid to ask questions in bigger classrooms aren’t as scared because it’s smaller and they’re closer to the teacher.” 

With these smaller class sizes comes a much more flexible curriculum. Students are able to do much more learning outside the classroom, such as student learning projects and competitions. Mrs. Hardy stresses the importance of giving back to the community, and it shows with her students, who do service projects with Up With Trees and Habitat for Humanity.

Students play a game with their teachers in the commons. “I love that we can do things outside of just school curriculum. We can do service learning projects and competitions,” says Mrs Lai. “Things you couldn’t do in a typical classroom is to big. So we can just do more fun things together.”

High schoolers are accustomed to picking their own courses every year and switching classes every semester. The Alternative Center operates differently: they use a trimester system, so that students can get nine credits a semester instead of six. Administrators choose students’ courses, but they still get to pick some of their electives. 

Electives can range from Human Geography to Horror Film studies. For Senior Marisol Cruz, her favorite is the Leadership class.

“It’s basically like student council here,” says Cruz. “We’ll take out the recycling, clean up the commons, fill the bird baths, and sometimes we go volunteer at the Early Childhood Center.” 

Many high schoolers think that the main difference between Alternative Center and the High school is future planning. There is the perception that Alternative Center exists to get you credits so that you can graduate as quickly and easily as you can, but the students at the Alternative Center plan for the future just as much if not more. 

“We do the PACT, we take the seniors to PREPU, all of our 11th graders take the ACT, we definitely boost our kids’ GPA,” says Hardy. “There’s a lot of things that are very similar to the high school, just in a smaller environment.” 

A high schooler entering the Alternative Center would notice many differences in the way class 

is generally run and the approach the teachers take to educating their students. The similarities you’d see are much more significant: the hard work students put in, striving for the common goal of graduating, planning for the future, and following the path to success. 

“It’s a chance to change,” says Hardy. “A choice to make a difference, to make different decisions, and get back on track.”

If you think the Alternative Center’s more personal approach to education is something that appeals to you, you can talk to your counselor for information on how to apply and interview to get accepted into the Alternative Center.

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