Heritage High School - College and Career Readiness

Heritage High School
Written by: Frank Arce, Principal, Heritage High School

I have been fortunate to work at many different schools.  In my teaching and my administrative career, this is now the sixth high school that I’ve worked at.  I have learned that all schools and their personnel; from teachers and classified staff, to counselors and the school administration; work diligently to give students opportunities to be successful in high school and have the opportunities to either pursue higher education or a productive career.  We all always talk about a vision in wanting to create “lifelong learners” and promote “civic responsibility” as students become “productive members of our society”.  Most schools have a shared mission of getting kids college and career ready.  But, only exceptional schools actually have a systematic approach to targeting this specific goal.  It’s exceptional schools like these that are driven in their programmatic decisions and meaningful experiences that are planned for students, that truly have a purposeful approach to getting kids ready for college, military, technical careers, or the workforce in general.  Heritage High School is this type of exceptional school; Heritage High School is where this vision becomes action.

A Four Year Plan

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All students at Heritage High School meet with school counselors well before they embark on their educational journey here.  Counselors go out to the middle schools and discuss course options, A-G requirements for UC/CSU admission, and other critical ‘need-to-know” items.  Counselors then meet individually with students to formulate a four-year plan based on individual students’ needs. These meetings and periodic check-ins with students take an enormous amount of time.  But, our Model of Excellence Award-winning counseling staff know that this is the best way to ensure that students are ready and on-track for success. This is the Heritage Way.

A Strong Foundation

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Teachers play a critical role in aligning our goals for college and career readiness, with classroom standards for academics and social skills that are conducive to success.  Every student at Heritage High School is in a Freshman Foundations class or an AVID 9 section.  The class is meant to teach specific strategies that will help students with study habits and general high school expectations.  At Heritage High School, we took this to another level.  Each of our Foundations and Freshmen AVID sections are separated into teams.  These teams compete against each other for positive school connectedness and engagement points.  Students are given participation points as a class for being involved in a variety of on-campus activities and events.  These can be anything from a football night tailgate barbecue, to our annual Back to School Night.  Research indicates that student’s meaningful connections are critical to student success, and this Foundations class is a great way to target student involvement.  Programs like LinkCrew, PLUS, and ASB also foster opportunities for social/academic skills development and high school success.  It is the combination of all these programs, the genius of “and” versus the tyranny of “or”, that helps create a formula for academic success.

Choice in Pathways and Successful Programs

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It is also imperative to have choices for students in different pathways. The recently-adopted districtwide seven period schedule is a great way to ensure that students have equitable access to the curriculum.  Students now have more opportunities to enroll in Fine Arts, World Languages, AP classes, Engineering classes, and other courses that would otherwise be limited with a shorter schedule.  This was a great move towards students success.  However, at Heritage High School, it is the variety of programs and pathways that continue to further drive student success.  Heritage High School has a renowned and award-winning Agriculture/FFA program, with a pathway aligned to college admission.  We are also building up our Project Lead The Way Biomedical Program, as well as Engineering. As an AVID National Demonstration school, the HHS AVID Site team works tirelessly to make sure that students are exposed to successful learning strategies and have access to college planning resources.        

Events and Activities

Students at Heritage High School were all met from day one with lessons in planning for college and career readiness.  Our Camp Legacy model, a one-day introduction to the school year with lessons on social and academic skills-building, is meant to frontload students with strategies and expectations that are needed to prepare for real-world applications of knowledge and skills.  Throughout the year, we have Ag/FFA nights, AVID Parent Nights, College Fair, and other opportunities for students and their parents to engage in the learning process and plan for a college and career future.  We are also in the beginning stages of planning a Career Fair and a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) community night.  Student events such as the College Kickoff Day, College Application Night, and the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) Night are all staff-guided events to help students prepare for higher education.  Clubs and organizations like Key Club, Interact, National Honors Society, and others also contribute by fostering opportunities for community service and college awareness.


One of the very unique aspects about Heritage High School is the building of a LEGACY cohort of students.  LEGACY is modeled after our motto - Leadership, Excellence, Generosity, Academics, Character, and opportunitY.  Our LEGACY students are on track to meet A-G requirements.  Counselors meet with them individually and also pull out students for informational sessions.  The goal is to move more and more students towards the LEGACY track and continue to prepare students for College and Career Readiness.

The African proverb - “It takes a village to raise a child” - is a philosophy that Heritage High School subscribes to at the core of what we do.  People at Heritage High School are constantly thinking up more ways to reach students and promote college and career readiness.  We continue to build on this vision from the bottom-up.  Heritage High School staff doesn’t wait to ask WHY we should help students; they take action towards the HOW to achieve success.