High school students getting a jump start on their college education and careers

FRESNO, Calif. -- High school students are getting a jump start on their college education and careers.

Students attend University Preparatory High School at College of the Sequoias in Visalia.

Action News South Valley Reporter Brian Johnson introduces us to two graduating seniors who are successful high school and college students at the same time.

Nick Seechan and Jacqueline Lopez have not even completed their last semester of high school.

But both have a leg up on the competition-they've already accrued dozens of college credits.

"It's been good, like it gets better each semester, yes sir," said UPHS student Nicholas Seechan.

They attend University Preparatory High school, a program by our children first sponsor, Tulare County Office of Education.

It is a free public charter school at the College of the Sequoias' Visalia campus.

They take high school classes, like physical education, but they are also fully immersed in the college experience, taking classes alongside older COS students.

Jacqueline is the first in her family to attend college.

Her parents only finished middle school in Mexico.
"Cause it's like being a high school and COS student, you don't know many of the people there so it can be a little nerve-wracking but I think over time, getting involved with the students within COS, and when they find out sometimes that you're a high school student, they're like amazed by it, cause you may get better grades even than the COS students," said Lopez.

She says attending UPHS has given her the confidence to ask for help, get involved in extracurricular activities, and make lifelong friends--skills she will eventually use at a four-year college.

But Jacqueline, who plans to major in international business, will likely stick around COS for another year to complete her associate's degree.

Nick thinks he will do the same. Though he plans to major in some type of engineering, or maybe medicine. Math is his forte.

He has taken college-level trigonometry, calculus, and he tutors math too.

But like Jacqueline, Nick sees the benefits of a UPHS degree beyond the college credits he has earned.

"I know how to crash a class, I know how to sign up for a class, I know what to do if I get an add code, I know how to study, I know how to get in touch with the learning resource center. All these things, I know how to fail and get back up," said Seechan.

UPHS was founded in 2009 for students committed to college success, especially first-generation students.
Since then, hundreds of students have graduated and gone on to college, the military, or even straight into their career of choice.

Its principal would like to see the school continue to grow.

"But if you come here, we're going to give you all the attention we can give you. We're going to push you, we're going to help you as best we can so that you're ready when you go into college," said UPHS Principal Eric Thiessen.

"When my parents went to school, they didn't have early college, they didn't know about all of these opportunities that they could possibly have had, that I have now," said Seechan.

For Nick and Jacqueline, the possibilities are endless, because they are ready for the real world and this is just the beginning.

UPHS students can also participate in any of COS' 75 student clubs.

For more information on the school, including how to enroll, click on Children First: Ready for the Real World.

Our new Children First special: Ready for the Real World airs tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.

ABC30 thanks its partners below for putting Children First in the Central Valley.