PORTLAND - School leaders have re-worked Jefferson High to make it into a college preparatory school.
They’ve change the name to “Jefferson High School Middle College for Advanced Studies.”
The idea is to change the expectations of parents and students about what happens inside the walls of the school.
It is a place that very nearly closed its doors two years ago, in part because of fears held by parents like Tracy Crittenden who planned to send her daughter somewhere else.
“The the shootings, the gangs the turmoil -- we were very concerned. And so we just thought 'I don’t think so,'" she said.
Many others agreed. In fact only 22-percent of the kids eligible to attend Jefferson actually go there. The rest transfer out to other schools.
But a star-studded group of education leaders gathered at the school to announce special scholarships and incentives that they hope will change the culture and eventually the reputation of Jefferson High.
“Jefferson is preparing every single student for college," said Portland Public Schools superintendent Carol Smith. “They will end up traveling a road that no one could have imagined,” said Abraham Proctor from the PCC Cascade Campus.
“If you do the right thing we've got an education for you,” said PCC President Preston Pulliams. “We also believe deeply in excellence through diversity,” said OSU President, Edward Ray.
Andrea Cook, President of Warner Pacific College said the school will provide a four year leadership scholarship each year.
“We have carved out one of those scholarships every year for a student from Jefferson,” said Cook.
Jefferson principal Margaret Calvert said the scholarships and partnerships will have a big effect.
“That changes not only the fabric of this community but really the course of so many lives here," she said.
Part of that message is already alive in the hallways.Teens like Jireh Gonzalez think it’s cool to be smart.
“We like try to compete to see who can get like the best grades in class, who has like the highest GPA. “We're all striving to get four point this quarter," Gonzalez said.
Christopher Holloway says they are pushed by their mothers.
“My mother, she pushes me you know, to do better in school. I mean I’m not that bad in school. I do pretty well. And, but she wants me to do better," he said.
Channelle Crittenden heard a similar message from her parents. “Now I am very honored to be vice president of my freshman class,” she said during the news conference with the college leaders.
Which might seem surprising since her mom is the same woman we met at the beginning of this story. But what we didn’t know then is that Tracy Crittenden never got "her" college degree. Once she found out what Jefferson High could offer her daughter, she investigated the school and found her assumptions were wrong.
Now she’s urging other parents to give Jefferson High another look.
“Please come and check out the school for yourself,” she said. Realize that you're investing in your child's education. The end results will be awesome," she said.
Jefferson High will hold parent information nights on Wednesday February 15 and February 22nd at 6:30pm in the school cafeteria.