Program gives students at the Middle College at UNCG real-world opportunities

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Since it began in 2011, the Middle College at UNCG has won many accolades.

"For the past four years, we have been in US News and World Report as one of America's best schools... best high schools. And we've also been in the Washington Post as one of America's most challenging high schools", said Principal Angela Polk-Jones. "Obviously we've just earned one of America's best Urban Schools.. we've met or exceeded growth every year that we have been in existence. We've had 100% graduation rate for the past three years."

The high school, which is located on the campus of UNCG, focuses on health, medical careers, and youth development.

"It's surreal sometimes. Because it's not one of those things where it's like 'Oh I think I want to do this... I want to do that,'" said Polk-Jones. "It's just one of those things where you just come in and you work hard and then all of your hard work just pays off. That is what has happened to us over these past 7 years. "

The centerpiece of the school is the Pathways program. It gives students an opportunity to see their prospective careers through work shadowing and internships.

Polk-Jones says sometimes they learn fast what they thought they wanted to do isn't for them.

"It's positive one way or another, even if students decide they don't want to go into that particular career. At least they know before they get into college. Before they've spent four years taking courses toward that degree, they're able to make a decision right now here in high school and say well at least I can X that off and know that I don't want to do that." she said.

For Polk-Jones, coming to UNCG was like coming home. She was a stand out on the Spartans basketball team in the late 80's. She says she loves the school because it did so much for her both in preparing her for her career and life in general.

"I was a project kid. I grew up in a single family, a single mother of 7 who raised 7 kids and you know was poor. Watching my mother work so hard, that is why I am the way I am, all of her kids are the way we are. We work hard and give everything that we have." she said.

And that's why she believes she has such a good relationship with her students.

"If you come from somewhere like I did, you don't have to settle. You can work hard. Use education as the vehicle to move you to where you want to be. Dream big."

And dream big is what her students do! This year's senior class has earned millions of dollars in scholarships and all have been accepted into some type of post-education program.

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