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Exploring the road less taken

By Alden Ingelson-Filpula | May | June 2020
For as long as I can remember, my educational experience has never quite conformed to the mainstream structure of institutional learning. While somewhat unconventional, this “road less taken” has provided a unique foundation, and defining force, in molding me into the young adult I have become.   My name is Alden Ingelson-Filpula, I am 14, and a Junior at CORE Butte Charter school in Chico, California. CORE Butte Charter offers a personalized learning/hybrid course track that extends great flexibility to the programs and opportunities students can pursue. While this flexibility has always been an asset in my educational track, allowing me to participate in special programs and travel opportunities that are often not compatible with a traditional school schedule, it has proven an even greater asset during high school. In grade eight, I took a little leap out of my comfort zone, enrolled as a Concurrent Enrollment High School student at Butte College, my local community college, and have never looked back! While I was a little apprehensive about the higher expectations and workload in a college setting, the challenge has proven incredibly positive, helping me grow not only academically, but holistically. This growth in both my studies, and from a maturity standpoint helped make the decision to expand my educational plan to include courses from California State University, Chico this year, a very easy one, and I believe the combination of both college and university experience will no doubt be an incredible asset in my future. One of the greatest benefits of taking college or university courses in high school is that they can help you decide what area to pursue for a career. College courses have exposed me to a variety of subjects and topics that aren’t available at my high school, and have allowed me to explore my interests and future career options. Community colleges typically offer a multitude of programs and career tracks, including studies in the physical and biological sciences, arts, humanities, social and political sciences, and languages to name a few. Career and certificate programs, such as those in nursing, emergency services, and construction/trades are also appealing to many students. These options are great for both students looking to pursue a more traditional four-year degree or students who may not be as academically inclined. Colleges do not view this as a detriment or roadblock to the future, but instead treat it as a different set of skills, equally valuable and useful to society. As such, programs for those looking to become skilled workers, such as welders or automotive mechanics, are ideal. For me, my exposure to a variety of very interesting courses has helped me determine both my interests, and aptitude, lie squarely in the realm of liberal arts: specifically, politics, communication, and law. Learning in a college atmosphere has proven an incredible educational experience, and has introduced me to concepts and ideas that I had never encountered in “my little cosmos.” I’ve discovered that opinions are varied and unique and that an opposing viewpoint can be equally valid to mine as long as it finds its basis in facts, knowledge, experience and comprehension. While courses typically have a workload greater than what is encountered in high school, the payoff far exceeds the extra effort. Without exception, all my professors have been readily available for extra help or guidance, and student performance is evaluated in a fair manner. Students are made aware of the course objectives and expectations the first day of class, and typically deadlines for homework and assignments are posted well in advance. Tutoring and Supplemental Instruction, or “SI” sessions, are available for many classes, as are support services for students who may find themselves struggling. For me, organizational skills ended up being one of the areas I had to work on to better balance my academic and leisure schedule, but my attendance at a student-run workshop focused on this particular area provided me with great tips on how to make this a reality. Except for the occasional “crunch-time” when it seems like everything is due at once, I can now easily balance my studies with the extracurricular and weekend activities I enjoy. College courses can also build leadership, and develop an individual’s ability to communicate and interact with a variety of people. No matter what degree or area of study you choose to pursue, concurrent enrollment college courses help build written and oral communication skills that will benefit you anywhere in the workforce. In today’s public and private sector, business leaders are looking for those individuals who possess the necessary leadership qualifications and interaction skills to hold managerial postings and positions coordinating other parts of a business. It is important that students develop such skills as early as possible, and build on them in order to stand out among the dozens of other candidates vying for career positions. This past semester I completed a public speaking course, and I can honestly say it was one of the best and most useful classes I have taken. It instructed me on how to speak with a variety of different intents, whether it be to persuade, inform, or entertain. It has taught me how to talk and speak with credibility, confidence, and an engaging manner. This course has also given me the confidence to stand-up in any crowd or situation, and be heard. These are skills that I can apply to every area of my life, and I heartily recommend that all students take a public speaking course to gain this ability themselves. Another experience that has proven incredibly beneficial is my participation in Chico State’s Model United Nations. In this course, each student has the responsibility of representing a UN designated country, both in-class and at regional and international United Nations conferences. The Northwest Regional Model United Nations conference held in Seattle, Washington, in November, was an amazing experience in and of itself but has also opened the door to my participation in the International Model United Nations conference to be held in New York in April. Not only has this class been one of the most enjoyable classes I have taken, and one that has introduced me to many friends, but it has taught me valuable skills. It has augmented my knowledge of the power and importance of effective public speaking; the talents necessary when representing an organization, in this case, a country; and it has given me a broader outlook on the world and what it has to offer. In addition, MUN has emphasized the importance of not only being able to speak effectively but also to listen. In this world where I see increasing division along religious, ethnic, political, and socioeconomic lines, I truly believe that the skill of recognizing and respecting other viewpoints while still being able to effectively communicate your own is an incredible asset. While concurrent enrollment college classes are often touted for making progress towards a degree or study area, they can also serve as a way to explore and participate in areas that are just of pure interest. After performing in several musical theater productions when I was younger, I decided to branch out this past semester and joined Chico State’s A Capella choir. I discovered I really enjoy choral singing, and have now expanded this passion to include piano lessons. A Butte College course in Jazz Appreciation in the fall rounded out this whole experience. Not only has music proven a great creative outlet, but it has heightened my awareness of the many performances, and great talent, available in our local community. A final benefit of taking college courses in high school, and one that can’t be overlooked, is their impact on the university admission process. Taking college classes in high school can improve your chances of pursuing a four-year degree in a variety of ways. The first is that it can reduce the time required to finish your undergraduate study. By the time I finish high school, I will only have to take two years of university to finish my bachelor’s degree. Through planning with a college career counselor, I have set up my course program so that I can complete not only 60 transferable credits to Chico State and University of California’ campuses by high school graduation, but also attain my Associates of Arts in Political Science. This will be an incredible asset if I decide to carry on and finish my degree at Chico State or a UC school, but should also be an asset to my college admissions applications if I choose to go elsewhere. Basically, it opens some doors and it saves some money. Taking college classes in high school will spare me two years-worth of tuition, fees, etc., as Butte College tuition and fees are waived through the concurrent enrollment program, and other local and state subsidies. The personalized learning model my high school offers covers the cost of my textbooks and supporting materials necessary for all my college courses, so basically the classes I am taking currently cost me nothing! Completing college courses in high school can also boost your Grade Point Average, often well above the 4.0 mark, making you a more appealing candidate in the admissions process. Overall, embarking upon college or university courses while still in high school can be an incredibly valuable and rewarding experience. An early college experience can have a huge impact on not only your high school education, but where you choose to go next, whether it be as a skilled worker or, perhaps, as an academic. The skills and knowledge acquired when taking courses from different disciplines are countless, as are the associated financial and course credit rewards. With the numerous benefits associated with taking college courses in high school, I will always encourage my peers to “step out of the box” a little, challenge yourself to expand your interests and passions, and take a road which is often less traveled.
Alden Ingelson-Filpula is a student at CORE Butte Charter School in Butte County
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