Keith Dobbs, a 1981 graduate of McClymonds High School, is proud to be back on campus. Now a retired Oakland Police Officer, he is teaching Community Relations, one of Merritt’s Administration of Justice classes, as part of the college’s growing Dual Enrollment Program.
Along with the program’s benefit of giving students college credit and collecting FTEs for Merritt, Dobbs sees his roles as giving important lessons to the impressionable Oakland teens.
“This class starts a dialogue about relations between the police and the community so they can more critically examine situations by getting all sides, not just what they observe which is not always positive,” says Dobbs. “We hope that this class can bridge that gap and help build trust in the community.”
In planning for the Dual Enrollment Program, says Dr. Tina Vasconcellos, Dean of Academic Pathways and Success, it is key to pair up meaningful classes like Community Relations with the most appropriate instructors who are motivated to teach high schoolers. This helps assure that the class is successful in combination with the high school’s support.
Others of the 16 classes being taught in seven high schools this semester include Racism in America, Medical Assisting, Career Exploration, College Preparedness, College Success, Business, Financial Literacy, African-American History, Communications, Psychology, and Anthropology. For the Spring semester, the District has received 64 requests from high schools for classes. “While these partnerships are not new, we are now looking more strategically at how we can work to round out the high schools curriculum in terms of being part of their career pathways program,” she says. “We are still considering this a pilot program and have to work out some glitches, but it is really exciting. It’s a win-win program for us all.”
Overall, says Dr. Vasconcellos, the focus is on the high school students who will now graduate from high school with college credit to give them the incentive they might not have had to go on to further their education.
“Once students know they are successful at taking college classes, we’re hoping there is that shift that changes their academic expectation,” she says. “They may never have thought they could go to college, but now they might think, ‘Maybe I am college material after all.’”