A new program starts this August at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus, designed for students who dropped out of high school or are behind in credits towards high school graduation.

Gateway to College is a national program and SRJC is one of three state colleges starting the program for the 2013-14 academic year.

“We are constantly on the lookout for our students who are not able to graduate from high school, and this will give us another opportunity to help them. We won’t stop looking until everyone gets a high school diploma,” said Petaluma City Schools Director of Student Services Dave Rose.

The junior college partners with Petaluma City Schools, Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District and the Sonoma County Office of Education to identify youth who would benefit. Participants will enroll in SRJC courses to complete their high school diplomas and eventually earn college credits toward a degree, certificate or transfer pathway. While working toward high school diplomas, students can enroll without paying tuition.

Participants will attend SRJC’s Petaluma Campus full-time, taking intensive classes in reading, writing and math. They will be required to take courses in college success, counseling and physical education. Students will receive support, with staff hired specifically to assist them with academic planning, financial aid, scholarships, disability and psychological services, plus referrals to community assistance like off-campus housing and transportation.

“Our district is excited to partner with SRJC and offer this unique model to our school community,” said Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Kaufman. “We believe all students are entitled to a successful education and Gateway to College provides another pathway for students to prepare themselves for life beyond high school.”

The JC received a $325,000 contract from Gateway to College National Network for a three-year period to launch the program, which will become self-sustaining by receiving Average Daily Attendance revenue paid by the state to the college and through an agreement with its K-12 partners.

Vanessa Luna Shannon, an experienced K-12 and community college educator and counselor, has been hired as program director.

To be eligible for Gateway to College, youth must be between 16 and 20  at time of application, behind in high school credits for their grade level and have a reading level of at least eighth grade.

Applications are now being accepted. Informational meetings are set for 6 p.m. April 16 and 23 and May 7 in room 656 of the Call Building on campus, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway.

“Our top priority is to give students a second chance to get a high school diploma and college credit at the same time,” said SRJC Petaluma Campus Dean of Student Services Lauralyn Larsen.

For further information and to reserve a place, call 778-3631 or e-mail vshannon@santarosa.edu.