Meet Joseph.

My name is Joseph and I’m a senior at Summit Sierra. I was exploring different high school options and found out about Sierra from a family friend.

I’ll admit it was a little nerve-wracking committing to a school that was brand new. There weren’t any older Summit Sierra students, and there wasn’t a lot of information in our state about charter public schools. As founding students, none of us were familiar with the Summit’s personal learning platform. We had to be flexible and open-minded until the school got into a groove, and we had to trust the track record of high college acceptance rates Summit schools in California. We also got a crash course in how politics works when the state charter school law was overturned just a couple of weeks into the school year!

This unexpected ruling gave us real world experience advocating for our new school. Our entire class went to Olympia and successfully helped pass a strong new law. Ironically, this “school” experience made me realize there are other, bigger things outside of school that matter, like standing up for civil rights and public education.

Ironically, this “school” experience made me realize there are other, bigger things outside of school. Before I came to Sierra, I had been going to a very small private school where we didn’t have this kind to access to the outside world while at school – especially since our school didn’t have internet. Being a student here broadened my world experience and helped me become more open-minded. Despite a very rocky start to our school year, what made me stay was the different way that Summit approached learning, and my mentor group.

I stopped trying in school when I was in the eighth grade because my middle school was just not working out for me. Most of that year my GPA was below 1.0, and I would only scrape by on the end-of-year test.

What made me interested at Summit Sierra was the opportunity to work at my own pace with their online platform. I was also drawn to the mentor program. Having a mentor group means that there’s always someone that you can go to, even if you’re having a bad day—and I had a fair amount of those freshman year. But it was thanks to my mentor group that I got the help that I needed to thrive socially and emotionally.

Learning here is really individualized and rigorous. For example, this year I’m taking AP Literature, AP Government and Politics, AP Environmental Science, AP Calculus AB and AP Computer Science. With the online platform you can get ahead, so I have gotten most of my mini tests—content assessments—completed early, which helps me dedicate more time to preparing for college.

Summit Sierra has a weekly meeting about college-readiness. They started that junior year which was nice because you could already be looking for what you need to do, what kind of test scores you need, and what GPA you need to apply to colleges. This year we are learning more about how to approach the application process thoughtfully and strategically. I was so prepared that once applications opened up for the University of Utah, which is my first choice, I applied three months before the deadline. My mom works at Boeing and she said that they do hire a lot of people from the University of Utah. I’d like to go into either electrical or mechanical engineering which they offer so it seemed like a very good fit for me.

I’m excited but also anxious about college – it’s a huge change. Summit Sierra has made the change easier because we can talk to any of the staff here about their experience in college.  They’ve shared what college life is like, so we already have a general idea of what to expect. I can’t know exactly what to expect, but that’s okay. Sierra has given me practice in being open-minded to new experiences.