Two new Middle College High Schools offer small, personal approach

HISD is recruiting students who can’t engage in a traditional high school environment to explore a new option — two Middle College High Schools on Houston Community College campuses in southwest Houston and east of downtown that will open in August.

The schools will offer personalized instruction through one-on-one support and small classes — averaging 15 students per teacher — that will lead to a diploma while providing opportunities for college credits and workforce certifications simultaneously through HCC. A total of 150 students will be enrolled at each campus.

The middle college concept aims at re-engaging students who feel disconnected from or distracted by the traditional high school culture so that they can proceed with their studies and accelerate their college and career readiness.

“We recognize that many students need this more personal setting that will also offer structure, stability, and daily immersion in a mature, college-going culture,” said Lupita Hinojosa, HISD’s School Services officer. “We’ve identified a number of different types of students who fall into that category — last year’s ninth-graders who may already need to recover credits, older students, ones who have family and work responsibilities. What they will have in common is the desire to earn a diploma and to pursue higher education and careers.”

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HISD classes will run between 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Gulfton campus and 12 noon-6 p.m. at the Fraga campus. Transportation and meals will be provided.

Students will be enrolled under the district’s recommended 26-unit graduation plan, which includes Algebra II and an “endorsement” – an area of focus, such as STEM, business and industry, arts and more.

The Middle College High School at HCC Gulfton is located at 5407 Gulfton St., in southwest Houston, phone 713-662-2551, and the Middle College High School at HCC Fraga is at 301 N. Drennan 77003, just east of downtown, phone 713-556-6947.

Two HISD veterans and longtime educators will lead the schools.

Diana del Pilar, who served as principal at Helms Elementary, an HISD dual language school, for the past four years, will be principal at the Gulfton campus. Under her leadership, Helms was a finalist this year for the Embassy of Spain’s award for Academic Excellence in Spanish. She worked in Spring Branch ISD for six years as an assistant principal and instructional specialist, and in bilingual education in Aldine HSD for 15 years. Devoted to the education of at-risk students, she has spoken at the Harris County Department of Education and the Center for Houston’s Future. Del Pilar received her B.A. summa cum laude from Sam Houston State University, and a master’s in education from the University of St. Thomas.

Leading the Fraga campus will be Angelica Vega, most recently a performance and continuous improvement manager for HISD middle school principals and their leadership teams. Before that, she served as dean of students at East Early College High School, another HISD partnership with HCC that allows students to earn their high school diplomas and associate’s degree at the same time. She taught at Stevenson Middle School in HISD, where she launched the Duke TIP program, participated in the inaugural cohort of HISD’s Rice Educational Entrepreneurship Program. After earning a B.A. and Texas A&M, she earned her master’s of education at Harvard and taught in Boston Public Schools.