Transition from middle school to high school can be very tense. You constantly worry about hairstyles, clothes, new teachers, harder work and the events of your social life. Upon attending a small school that’s focused on academics, you notice you miss out on things students at regular schools enjoy. For instance, there are no pep rallies or football games at Empowerment High School (EHS). But the beautiful thing is that during our last two years of high school, we have the opportunity to attend college classes for free, and earn almost one year’s credit in conjunction with graduating high school. In the beginning, it feels like you are being deprived of the perfectly illustrated high school life. However, the tremendous benefits quickly reveal a better image and promise of a better future. These benefits allow you to see that the “perfect high school” is one that prepares you for the next level of higher learning. Being able to be enrolled in college classes while attending high school is a positive challenge. You are exposed to the different aspects of college life, which give you an opportunity to learn what expectations a college holds. You learn that college is not a joke. You learn that it holds the key to your future.
One aspect of preparation for college is community service. Each Wednesday, EHS students are away from the EHS classroom, helping make improvements that we believe will help our community. We are able to improve our community, for example, by being mentors and tutors to elementary students to help close the achievement gap, providing food to the less fortunate, assisting the sick and participating in local civic groups. Knowing that we can effectively and positively impact our community influences us to make better choices to secure the lives we want as adults. These experiences will make us more active in our roles as citizens in this country. Going out into the community also opens our eyes to the realities of our society and what its strengths and weaknesses are, because our community exists beyond just EHS. Through this experience, I have learned that I can be a leader and achieve my goals if my heart is truly into it. I have also learned my own strengths and weaknesses, and that has helped me develop as a leader, a writer and as a student.
We can always go to football games and pep rallies for other schools, but there are only a few schools where you can reach out to your community, and fewer still that prepare you hands-on for the college experience. In a smaller school, the environment is more personalized, and students are able to get personal assistance when they need it. No student feels embarrassed or uneasy to call a teacher about an assignment. Honestly, these are experiences that are not offered at a normal high school. Above all, the gains outweigh the losses.
Empowerment—My Small School
Gazing sadly at
With their pep rallies and football games
Yearning to feel the excitement they feel
But my school is small
With no team to cheer
Just academics to study for
My friend, she goes to a normal high school
She’s says they’ve just had their fifteenth fight this year
Everyone focuses on helping each other
We’re all trying to reach the same goal
There’s no one competing
Over who dresses better
In my halls…you’ll commonly hear
“I passed!” rather than “See my new Jordans?”
I start college classes next fall
My friend, she will not start until
The fall after graduation
It makes me feel good
Like I’m getting a head start on an important race
I am in
the most important race
Achieving the goals I need to make me
successful in life.
Empowerment College Preparatory High School
Empowerment College Preparatory High School is a new small school, opened in 2005, enrolling students from anywhere in the Houston Independent School District attendance zone. With the opportunity to take dual credit courses at Houston Community College, Empowerment students have the ability to earn up to eighteen hours of college credit. Empowerment is part of the CES Small Schools Project, partnered with CES Mentor School Quest High School.
Kimberly Hill is a member of the class of 2009 at Empowerment College Preparatory High School. She looks forward to her college graduation as part of the class of 2013.